Gastrointestinal infections remain a frequent disease worldwide. In order to increase our knowledge of the epidemiology for our patient population, we retrospectively analyzed the results obtained for stool samples received at the clinical microbiology laboratory of the University Hospital of Geneva during a 4-year period. A total of 13,965 specimens from 7,124 patients (1.96 specimens per patient) were cultured, yielding 369 (2.6%) Salmonella spp., 408 (2.9%) Campylobacter spp., and 79 (0.6%) Shigella spp. The cumulative positivity rate of 6.1% decreased to 2.7% when patients received antimicrobial agents (P < 0.001). The positivity rate for 5,912 specimens obtained from patients hospitalized for < or = 3 days was 12.6%, whereas it dropped to 1.4% for patients hospitalized for > 3 days (P < 0.001). Of 3,837 stool samples originating from pediatric patients, 8.8% were positive, and 5.1% of 10,128 samples from adults were positive (P < 0.001). The cytotoxin of Clostridium difficile was detected in 379 of 3,723 samples analyzed (10.2%), and rotaviruses were detected in 190 of 1,601 samples (11.9%). We recommend that the use of cultures for enteric bacterial pathogens be restricted to patients hospitalized for < or = 3 days, with the exceptions of follow-up samples, specimens from immunocompromised patients, and patients whose first sample was culture negative or in the rare event of nosocomial food-borne outbreaks. For patients under antimicrobial therapy, testing for cytotoxin of C. difficile should primarily be requested; this analysis should also be accepted for samples from patients not receiving antimicrobial agents at the time of specimen collection. By applying these restrictions, we could have saved at least $5,000 annually.