Background: Travelers' diarrhea (TD) is the most common illness experienced by travelers to developing regions of the world and may be caused by bacterial, parasitic or viral pathogens. The available diagnostic tests include stool microscopy for parasitic infections, culture-dependent methods for bacterial infections and molecular methods for bacterial, parasitic and viral infections.
Method: We retrospectively evaluated demographic, clinical and microbiological data of patients presenting with TD at our travel clinic between 2009 and 2017.
Results: Among 676 patients with TD included in our study, at least one etiologic agent was found in 21% (n = 145) of cases. In total, 195 enteropathogens were detected of which 110 were bacteria, 70 protozoa and 15 helminths. Bacterial infections were significantly more common when symptoms were present less than 14 days and travel duration did not exceed 29 days. Protozoa and helminths were predominantly detected in patients with longer lasting complaints. After stool culture was replaced by a multiplex-PCR gastrointestinal pathogen panel (GPP) at our center, significantly more intestinal bacterial pathogens were detected.
Conclusions: Our results support an individualized approach in the diagnostic workup of patients with TD taking host and travel characteristics into account to avoid unnecessary diagnostic testing. Molecular culture-independent diagnostic stool tests provide better coverage of the variety of etiological agents than traditional stool culture and have the benefit of rapid detection. However, the high sensitivity bears challenges differentiating colonization from infection.
Keywords: Enteropathogens; Infectious diarrhea; Intestinal bacteria; Intestinal parasites; Multiplex-PCR.
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