Predictors of C-reactive protein in Tsimane' 2 to 15 year-olds in lowland Bolivia
Infectious disease is a major global determinant of child morbidity and mortality, and energetic investment in immune defenses (even in the absence of overt disease) is an important life-history variable, with implications for human growth and development. This study uses a biomarker of immune activation (C-reactive protein) to investigate an important aspect of child health among the Tsimane', a relatively isolated Amerindian population in lowland Bolivia. Our objectives are twofold: 1) to describe the distribution of CRP by age and gender in a cross-sectional sample of 536 2-15-year-olds; and 2) to explore multiple measures of pathogen exposure, economic resources, and acculturation as predictors of increased CRP. The median blood-spot CRP concentration was 0.73 mg/l, with 12.9% of the sample having concentrations greater than 5 mg/L, indicating a relatively high degree of immune activation in this population. Age was the strongest predictor of CRP, with the highest concentrations found among younger individuals. Increased CRP was also associated with higher pathogen exposure, lower household economic resources, and increased maternal education and literacy. The measurement of CRP offers a direct, objective indicator of immune activation, and provides insights into a potentially important pathway through which environmental quality may shape child growth and health.