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Clin Infect Dis. 2012 Dec;55 Suppl 4:S303-11. doi: 10.1093/cid/cis789.

Factors that explain excretion of enteric pathogens by persons without diarrhea.

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Center for Vaccine Development, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Excretion of enteropathogens by subjects without diarrhea influences our appreciation of the role of these pathogens as etiologic agents. Characteristics of the pathogens and host and environmental factors help explain asymptomatic excretion of diarrheal pathogens by persons without diarrhea. After causing acute diarrhea followed by clinical recovery, some enteropathogens are excreted asymptomatically for many weeks. Thus, in a prevalence survey of persons without diarrhea, some may be excreting pathogens from diarrheal episodes experienced many weeks earlier. Volunteer challenges with Vibrio cholerae O1, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), enteropathogenic E. coli, Campylobacter jejuni, and Giardia lamblia document heterogeneity among enteropathogen strains, with some inexplicably not eliciting diarrhea. The immune host may not manifest diarrhea following ingestion of a pathogen but may nevertheless asymptomatically excrete. Some human genotypes render them less susceptible to symptomatic or severe diarrheal infection with certain pathogens such as Vibrio cholerae O1 and norovirus. Pathogens in stools of individuals without diarrhea may reflect recent ingestion of inocula too small to cause disease in otherwise susceptible hosts or of animal pathogens (eg, bovine or porcine ETEC) that do not cause human illness.

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