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Bull World Health Organ. 1991;69(5):549-55.

Etiology of acute diarrhoea among children in developing countries: a multicentre study in five countries.

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Shanghai Hygiene and Anti-epidemic Centre, China.


A 2-year etiological survey of acute diarrhoea in children aged 0-35 months who were attending treatment facilities was carried out using a standardized protocol in five hospitals in China, India, Mexico, Myanmar, and Pakistan. A total of 3640 cases of diarrhoea and 3279 age- and sex-matched controls were studied; about 60% of the patients were aged less than 1 year and 60% were male. An enteric pathogen was detected in 68% of the cases and in 30% of the controls. In all the study centres, the pathogens most strongly associated with disease were rotavirus (16% of cases, 2% of controls), Shigella spp. (11% of cases, 1% of controls) and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (16% of cases, 5% of controls). Rotavirus was commonest among 6-11-month-olds, accounting for 20% of all cases in this age group; 71% of all rotavirus episodes occurred during the first year of life. Shigella spp. were commonest among those aged 12-23 months and 24-35 months, accounting for 22% and 27% of the cases, respectively. The proportion of cases that yielded no pathogen was inversely related to age, being highest (41%) among infants below 6 months of age and lowest (19%) among those aged 24-35 months. These results suggest that microbe-specific intervention strategies for the control of childhood diarrhoeal diseases in developing countries should focus on rotavirus, Shigella spp. and enterotoxigenic E. coli.

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