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Am J Epidemiol. 1990 Jul;132(1):144-56.

A prospective study of persistent diarrhea among children in an urban Brazilian slum. Patterns of occurrence and etiologic agents.

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  • 1Division of Geographic Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville.


Persistent diarrhea is a major health problem among children in developing areas of the world. Since few community-based studies have addressed the epidemiology or etiology of this condition, we undertook prospective diarrheal surveillance among a cohort of 175 children less than 5 years of age over a 28-month period in an urban slum in northeastern Brazil. Very high diarrhea illness burdens were found. The children in this cohort had an average of 11 episodes per year and spent 82 days per year with diarrhea. A total of 65% of children had at least one episode of persistent diarrhea (greater than or equal to 14 days duration). These episodes accounted for 50% of all days of diarrhea and 11% of all episodes. The occurrence of at least one episode of persistent diarrhea identified all children who spent at least 15% percent of days with diarrhea. Among children with and without diarrhea, rotavirus was the agent isolated most frequently, followed by Giardia lamblia and enterotoxigenic coliforms. The agents isolated from children with acute and persistent diarrhea were similar, which suggests that other factors must be operative in the development of persistent diarrhea.

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