Immunological competence (the ability of the immune system to mount a response in the presence of a pathogen) and nutritional status are major determinants of morbidity and mortality, particularly in children of the world's least developed countries. Communicable and nutritional deficiency diseases are often grouped together in mortality statistics, as many infection-related deaths occur in individuals who are also malnourished, making it difficult to disentangle infectious causes from malnutrition-related causes of death. It is estimated that infectious and nutritional deficiency diseases are responsible for 32% of global mortality and up to 59% of deaths in the world's poorest countries (World Health Organization 2004).
The relationship between malnutrition and infection has often been described as synergistic, and is the result of multifaceted interactions between nutritional intake, nutritional status, immunity, and vulnerability to infections. However, the role of nutrition in host resistance to infection is such that both nutrient deficiencies and excesses can increase susceptibility to infection.
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