Multiyear prospective study of intestinal parasitism in a cohort of Peace Corps volunteers in Guatemala

J Clin Microbiol. 2001 Jan;39(1):34-42. doi: 10.1128/JCM.39.1.34-42.2001.


We conducted a prospective, longitudinal study in a cohort of 36 Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs) in Guatemala to study the incidence and natural history of intestinal parasitic infections during the PCVs' >2-year overseas stay. PCVs collected stool specimens at least monthly and when ill with gastrointestinal symptoms. Of the 1,168 specimens tested, 453 (38.8%) were positive for at least one parasite and 48 (4.1%) were positive for a pathogenic parasite. A median interval of 187 days (range, 14 to 752 days) elapsed before the first documented parasitic infection, and the median intervals from arrival until subsequent infections (e.g., second or third) were >300 days. The PCVs had 116 episodes of infection with 11 parasites, including up to 4 episodes per PCV with specific nonpathogens and Blastocystis hominis. The incidence, in episodes per 100 person-years, was highest for B. hominis (65), followed by Entamoeba coli (31), Cryptosporidium parvum (17), and Entamoeba hartmanni (17). The PCVs' B. hominis episodes lasted 6,809 person-days (28.7% of the 23,689 person-days in the study), the E. coli episodes lasted 2,055 person-days (8.7%), and each of the other types of episodes lasted <2% of the person-days in the study. Gastrointestinal symptoms were somewhat more common and more persistent, but not significantly so, in association with pathogen episodes than with B. hominis and nonpathogen episodes. Although infections with pathogenic parasites could account for only a minority of the PCVs' diarrheal episodes, the continued acquisition of parasitic infections throughout the PCVs' >2-year stay in Guatemala suggests that PCVs repeatedly had fecal exposures and thus were at risk for infections with both parasitic and nonparasitic pathogens throughout their overseas service.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Blastocystis hominis / isolation & purification
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / isolation & purification
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / parasitology
  • Entamoeba / isolation & purification
  • Feces / parasitology
  • Female
  • Government Agencies*
  • Guatemala / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / epidemiology*
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / parasitology*
  • Intestines / parasitology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protozoan Infections / epidemiology*
  • Protozoan Infections / parasitology
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Volunteers*