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Int J Infect Dis. 2011 Jun;15(6):e401-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2011.02.006. Epub 2011 Apr 12.

Gastroenteritis in childhood: a retrospective study of 650 hospitalized pediatric patients.

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Pediatric Stem Cell Transplantation and Oncology Unit, Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital Würzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str. 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany.



Acute diarrhea continues to be an important cause of hospitalization in young children, and deaths still occur as a result. We reviewed a large cohort of hospitalized children affected by gastroenteritis. The hypothesis of our study was that clinical characteristics and a limited set of laboratory data can differentiate between the different causative pathogens of diarrhea.


A chart review was performed of 650 patients with pathogen-proven diarrhea treated between April 2005 and May 2008 in the children's hospital of the University of Würzburg. Clinical presentation at the time of admission and during hospital stay, laboratory findings, stool pathogen results, and epidemiological data were collected and compared. A severity score was generated.


Rotavirus was the most common gastroenteritis pathogen identified, followed by norovirus, adenovirus and Salmonella spp. Nosocomial infections were caused most commonly by norovirus. Rotavirus was the most common agent when there was simultaneous detection of two or more viruses. Rotavirus infections were significantly more severe, with a higher frequency of diarrhea and elevated liver enzymes. Infections due to Salmonella spp showed significantly higher values for C-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and body temperature. A seasonal distribution was noted, with the peak for rotaviruses/noroviruses in winter/spring, the peak for adenoviruses in November/December, and the peak for Salmonella spp in the summer months. Younger children and toddlers had significantly higher gastroenteritis and airway inflammation scores. Of note, respiratory symptoms and parameters of systemic inflammation differed between the different pathogens.


Gastroenteritis is a common reason for hospital admission in previously healthy children during the first years of life. Rotaviruses were found to be the most common pathogens in our cohort. On the basis of clinical and laboratory parameters it appears possible to distinguish between the different causative agents. This may have implications for hospital hygiene management and for the identification of predictive markers of a severe course.

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