A staggering 3 million children die from malnutrition across the globe each year, with many more left with long-lasting deficits in their growth and development. Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD – widely regarded as the father of the microbiome – has dedicated his life’s work to changing this paradigm. Gordon, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis — along with WashU colleague Michael J. Barratt, PhD, a team of collaborators led by Tahmeed Ahmed MBBS, PhD, at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), and a host of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and staff scientists in Gordon’s lab — have developed a treatment for childhood malnutrition that nurtures the beneficial microbes in the gut, with the aim of more effectively treating the condition.

After success in early clinical trials led by Ahmed in Bangladesh, the innovative “microbiome-directed” food the team has developed will be evaluated in major randomized controlled trials funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and carried out in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The trials will involve nearly 20,000 children in seven countries in South Asia and Africa: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Mali, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Niger.