Using a double-lumen tube perfusion system, solutions of glucose (1·0, 2·5, and 5·0 g 100ml−1) have been perfused into the upper jejunum of 22 Zambian African subjects in order to study their glucose absorption kinetics. None of them had clinical evidence of malnutrition or intestinal disease. In 10 there was no evidence of an infective disease (`normal' group); seven had tuberculosis; five had acute bacterial infections. The mean serum albumin concentration was significantly lower in those with infections; the mean total and γ-globulin concentrations were significantly higher in the tuberculosis group.
There was good reproducibility in triplicate assessments of glucose and water absorption rates in the individual subjects. Despite a wide scatter, the mean glucose kinetic curves were significantly flatter in those with infections than in the normal group (p<0·02). There was a significant association between glucose and water absorption rates in the individuals. D-xylose absorption was estimated in 11 subjects and there was a significant correlation between that and the glucose absorption rate. Jejunal morphology (n=9) and disaccharidase concentrations (n=6) were normal for African subjects and there were no significant associations between either of those and the absorption rates.
Galactose absorption kinetics have been studied in an additional four relatively normal Zambian Africans.
This study suggests that systemic bacterial infections can produce malabsorption. This may be relevant to the weight loss in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis and also to the aetiology of kwashiorkor.
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