What is it about?

More than 60 years after the Great Chinese Famine, it continues to take a devastating toll on health. Substantial excess rates of tuberculosis were found among people born during the famine, as well as their offspring, indicating a previously unrecognized, intergenerational effect of prenatal and early life exposure to famine. Widely considered the largest famine in human history, the Great Chinese Famine led to an estimated 30 million deaths from starvation, and an estimated 33 million births were lost or postponed. This research analyzed data on more than one million pulmonary tuberculosis infections across birth cohorts to assess the impact of the famine over the intervening decades since the famine.

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Why is it important?

This study is the first to show that famine induces long-term and intergenerational effects on infectious disease transmission. We have long known that exposure to nutritional stress and famine can lead to long-term health consequences including type 2 diabetes, schizophrenia, and hypertension, and that some of these effects may pass from generation to generation. We now know that more than 60 years later, this historic famine continues to exacerbate TB transmission as well, one of the world’s most intractable global infectious disease crises.

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This page is a summary of: Prenatal and early-life exposure to the Great Chinese Famine increased the risk of tuberculosis in adulthood across two generations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2020, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2008336117.
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