Diarrhoea is the most frequent health problem among travellers in the tropics. However, data on the spectrum and relevance of enteropathogens in international travellers with and without diarrhoea are limited. Stool samples from 114 cases of diarrhoea in travellers returning from the tropics were collected for microbiological examination and PCR for norovirus genogroups I and II, enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC), and enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) producing heat-labile toxin (LT) and heat-stable toxin (ST). Travel and laboratory data of cases were compared with those of 56 travellers without diarrhoea. Among cases, EAEC was found in 45% of stool samples, followed by LT-ETEC (20%), ST-ETEC (16%), Blastocystis hominis (15%), Campylobacter jejuni (12%), norovirus (11%), Giardia lamblia (6%), Shigella spp. (6%), and Salmonella spp., Cryptosporidium spp., and Cyclospora cayetanensis (3% each). However, only for EAEC, ST-ETEC, Blastocystis and Campylobacter was the prevalence significantly higher among cases than among controls. Co-infections were common: 61% for cases and 13% for controls. The most common travel destination was Asia (54%), followed by Africa (35%) and Latin America (9%). The highest relative risk for diarrhoea was calculated for travellers to West Africa, East Africa, and South Asia. In this study, EAEC, LT-ETEC and ST-ETEC were detected most frequently in cases of travellers' diarrhoea. Although enteric infections with EAEC, ST-ETEC and Campylobacter often cause diarrhoea, the pathogenetic relevance remains unclear for most of the other enteropathogens, because of significant prevalence rates also being seen in controls without diarrhoea and the high frequency of co-infections.
© 2010 The Authors. Clinical Microbiology and Infection © 2010 European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.