Studies on Diarrheal Diseases in Central America

I. Preliminary Findings on Cultural Surveys of: Normal Population Groups in Guatemala

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  • Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá (INCAP) Guatemala, C. A.


This preliminary study was designed to determine the prevalence of Salmonella and Shigella in human population groups without reference to the presence or absence of frank diarrheal disease. Twelve communities in Guatemala were selected for study, and children 0–10 years of age examined by means of rectal swabs. Data on the external environment were obtained by observation and by compilation of locally available statistics.

The high prevalence rates for Shigella were shown to be comparable with rates obtained in selected specific areas of the United States during periods when Shigella infection was determined to be the major cause of diarrheal disease deaths. Although not all of the diarrheal problems in Guatemala are related to shigellosis, the data strongly suggest that organisms of the genus Shigella cause the major portion of diarrheal diseases in the communities studied in Guatemala and that diarrheal diseases caused by Shigella represent a major public health problem in the country.

The high rates in Guatemala, as in the United States, were associated with the lack of sanitary facilities, with poor housing, with limited water supply and with poor personal hygiene.

Author Notes

Pan American Sanitary Bureau Consultant to INCAP in Medical Bacteriology during the period October, 1955 to March, 1956.

Chief of the Nutrition Field Unit, Guatemalan Public Health Department.

Director, Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá (INCAP). A cooperative Institute for the study of human nutrition, supported by the Governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Gautemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama and administered by the Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organisation. INCAP Scientific Publication I-64.