Introduction: In Latin America, gastrointestinal infections represent one of the main causes of death among indigenous groups, with a mortality rate three times greater than in the general population. In this study, the carrier state of enteropathogens and the epidemiological risk factor in asymptomatic children from indigenous communities of Mérida, Venezuela, were determined.
Methodology: Fifty-eight healthy children, 5 years of age and under, were clinically and epidemiologically evaluated. Fecal samples were tested for a range of classic enteropathogens. Antimicrobial susceptibility tests (AST) were performed by dilution methods.
Results: Of the specimens studied, there were 34 (58.6%) positive samples, and a single enteropathogen was detected in 22 (64.6%) of these. Associations of two and three enteropathogens were observed in 10 (29.3%) and two (5.8%) cases, respectively. Blastocystis hominis (16; 47.0%) and Salmonella spp. (15; 43.9%) were the most frequently detected enteropathogens. Carriage of enteropathogens was most frequent in children older than two years. The variety of food in the daily diet was the risk factor strongly associated with the presence of parasites and/or enteric bacteria (p = 0.024 < 0.05 and p = 0.000 < 0.05, respectively). The majority of these bacteria were susceptible to the antibiotics tested in vitro.
Conclusion: This study shows a high prevalence of enteropathogen carriage in asymptomatic children aged five and under from indigenous communities; this result is statistically related to the consumption of food. These findings stress the need of continuous epidemiological surveillance in vulnerable populations, as an important step to prevent the morbidity and mortality due to gastrointestinal infections.