Etiology of Acute Diarrhea among United States Military Personnel Deployed to South America and West Africa

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  • U.S. Naval Medical Research Institute, U.S. Naval Medical Research Institute Detachment (Lima, Peru), Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (Bangkok, Thailand), Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Bethesda, Maryland

A study of acute diarrhea was conducted from 1985 to 1987 among U.S. military personnel participating in routine shipboard exercises in South America and West Africa and ground troops deployed to coastal Ecuador. An enteropathogen was identified in 146 (51%) of 289 acute cases of diarrhea. Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, found in 50 (17%) patients with diarrhea, was the most commonly identified enteropathogen. Viral enteropathogens were also found in a high percentage of acute cases of diarrhea: rotavirus was detected in 11% of the patients and Norwalk virus infection in 10%. Most enteric pathogens were acquired in equal frequencies in South America and West Africa, except for rotavirus infection which was identified more often in West Africa and enteroaggregative E. coli infection which was identified more often in South America. Bacterial enteropathogens were frequently resistant to trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, but no resistance to quinolone drugs was observed, indicating that quinolone drugs have become important agents for the treatment of diarrhea in South America and West Africa.

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