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BMJ. Mar 15, 1997; 314(7083): 779–782.
PMCID: PMC2126206

Prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms six months after bacterial gastroenteritis and risk factors for development of the irritable bowel syndrome: postal survey of patients.


OBJECTIVE: To measure the prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms six months after bacterial gastroenteritis and determine risk factors and associations with postdysenteric symptoms. DESIGN: Postal questionnaire. SETTING: Nottingham Health Authority. SUBJECTS: 544 people with microbiologically confirmed bacterial gastroenteritis between July 1994 and December 1994. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms and relative risks for development of the irritable bowel syndrome and self reported altered bowel habit. RESULTS: A quarter of subjects reported persistence of altered bowel habit six months after an episode of infective gastroenteritis. Increasing duration of diarrhoea, younger age, and female sex increased this risk, whereas vomiting as part of the illness reduced the risk. One in 14 developed the irritable bowel syndrome with an increased risk seen in women (relative risk 3.4: 95% confidence interval 1.2 to 9.8) and with duration of diarrhoea (6.5; 1.3 to 34 for 15-21 days). CONCLUSIONS: Persistence of bowel symptoms commonly occurs after bacterial gastroenteritis and is responsible for considerable morbidity and health care costs.

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