Intestinal protozoan infections in relation to nutritional status and gastrointestinal morbidity in Colombian school children

J Trop Pediatr. 2010 Oct;56(5):299-306. doi: 10.1093/tropej/fmp136. Epub 2010 Jan 8.


While Giardia duodenalis infection has been consistently associated with nutrient malabsorption and stunting in children, the effects of other protozoans on nutritional status or gastrointestinal morbidity are less clear. We sought to determine whether infection with common intestinal protozoans including Giardia duodenalis, Entamoeba coli and Blastocystis hominis was associated with anthropometric and micronutrient status, gastrointestinal symptoms, visits to the doctor or school absenteeism in children 5-12 years of age from Bogotá, Colombia. We obtained stool samples from 442 children enrolled in primary schools in 2006 and examined the presence of intestinal protozoans in relation to height, body mass index, plasma concentrations of vitamins A and B12, ferritin and zinc and erythrocyte folate. In addition, we examined the associations between protozoan infections and the incidence of common gastrointestinal symptoms, which were registered prospectively in morbidity diaries. The prevalence rates of G. duodenalis, E. coli and B. hominis infection were 6.3, 23.1 and 22.4%, respectively. Giardia infection was associated with lower height-for-age z-score (p = 0.04), whereas E. coli infection was associated with low erythrocyte folate (p = 0.04), and B. hominis infection was related to higher vitamin A levels (p = 0.05). Infection with E. coli was also associated with a significantly higher incidence of fever but fewer visits to the doctor, while B. hominis infection was associated with significantly less diarrhea, diarrhea with vomiting, doctor visits and school absenteeism. In conclusion, G. duodenalis and E. coli infections were associated with indicators of poor nutritional status in this population, while B. hominis was related to apparently decreased morbidity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Blastocystis hominis / isolation & purification
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colombia / epidemiology
  • Dysentery, Amebic / complications*
  • Dysentery, Amebic / epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Escherichia coli Infections / complications
  • Escherichia coli Infections / epidemiology
  • Feces / parasitology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology
  • Giardia / isolation & purification
  • Giardiasis / complications*
  • Giardiasis / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Micronutrients / blood*
  • Morbidity
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Schools
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Micronutrients