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Bacteriological studies were made on children 10 years old and under from 700 families in Panama City and 30 rural and semirural communities. Culture of rectal swabs from 1,178 children revealed a prevalence rate of 3.7% for enterobacterial pathogens, that for Shigella sp. (2.8%) being highest. Salmonella sp., enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, and Edwardsiella tarda were recovered less frequently. Differences in prevalence of Shigella infections in age groups were not significant, but Shigella was not found in children less than 1 year old. Shigella was isolated more frequently from children with diarrhea (4.8%), than from those without diarrhea (1.9%); the difference is significant (P < 0.05). There was no positive correlation between isolations of enterobacteria with disposal of excreta, sources of drinking water, and the number of children occupying the same bed. Prevalence rates for pathogens in 31 communities ranged from 0 to 13.3%; in 11, no pathogens were encountered, and Salmonella sp. and enteropathogenic E coli were found in 7. Shigella infections were found in 17 communities, indicating its relative importance as a pathogen.
Gorgas Memorial Laboratory, Panamá, Republic of Panamá.
Microbiology Division, Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panamá (INCAP), Guatemala, Central America.