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Noma Infections in Young Children Can Be Prevented

Researchers urge control plans in regions where the disfiguring infection is prevalent

MONDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Noma, the disfiguring facial infection that primarily affects young children in sub-Saharan Africa and occasionally those in Europe and the United States, can be prevented, according to a seminar published in the July 8 issue of The Lancet.

Cyril O. Enwonwu, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and colleagues describe noma as an opportunistic infection associated with extreme poverty, poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water. According to the authors, it results from complex interactions between malnutrition, infections and compromised immunity and often is preceded by measles, malaria, severe diarrhea and necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. In severe cases, it rapidly progresses from gingival inflammation to orofacial gangrene.

Although noma responds well in the acute phase to antibiotic treatment, it often causes functional and aesthetic impairments that require reconstructive surgery. To increase awareness of the disease, there should be information campaigns at the national, regional and village levels, the authors state.

"Noma robs many children of their future," the authors state. "There is urgent need for countries where noma is still prevalent to set up control plans that emphasize prevention and early detection of the disease, while addressing poverty, environmental hygiene, perinatal health care, maternal and infant nutrition, and timely immunization of children against endemic diseases, particularly measles."

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