Serum haemolytic complement activity and C3 were significantly decreased in 35 malnourished children. The changes were more pronounced in those with infection. Electrophoretically altered forms of complement C were detected in 14. There was an inverse correlation between C3 levels and immunoconglutinin titres. Nutritional rehabilitation and eradication of infection reversed the abnormalities. It is suggested that reduced complement function in malnutrition is the combined result of impaired synthesis, complement activation in vivo, and changes in plasma volume, and that it may contribute to an increased susceptibility to infection in undernourished individuals.
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