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Gastroenterology. 2009 May;136(6):1874-86. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.02.072. Epub 2009 May 7.

Diagnosis and treatment of acute or persistent diarrhea.

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Division of Infectious Disease and International Health, Center for Global Health, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA.


Studies of microbial pathogens and the toxins they produce are important for determining the mechanisms by which they cause disease and spread throughout a population. Some bacteria produce secretory enterotoxins (such as cholera toxin or the heat-labile or stable enterotoxins produced by Escherichia coli) that invade cells directly. Others invade cells or produce cytotoxins (such as those produced by Shigella, enteroinvasive E coli, or Clostridium difficile) that damage cells or trigger host responses that cause small or large bowel diseases (such as enteroaggregative or enteropathogenic E coli or Salmonella). Viruses (such as noroviruses and rotaviruses) and protozoa (such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, or Entamoeba histolytica) disrupt cell functions and cause short- or long-term disease. Much epidemiologic data about these pathogens have been collected from community- and hospital-acquired settings, as well as from patients with traveler's or persistent diarrhea. These studies have led to practical approaches for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

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