Background: Travellers' diarrhoea (TD) is the most common travel-related illness with an estimated 10 million people afflicted annually. Outcome measures to assess the efficacy of primary and secondary TD interventions were historically based on diarrhoea frequency with ≥1 associated gastrointestinal symptom. Furthermore, efficacy determination is often made on the presence or absence of TD, rather than on TD illness severity. Current severity classifications are based on subjective consideration of impact of illness on activity. We sought to develop a standardized scoring system to characterize TD severity to potentially apply as a secondary outcome in future field studies. Methods: Data on multiple signs and symptoms were obtained from a previously published multisite TD treatment trial conducted by the US Department of Defense (TrEAT TD). Correlation, regression and multiple correspondence analyses were performed to assess impact on activity and a TD severity score was established. Results: Numerous signs and symptoms were associated with impaired function, with malaise and nausea most strongly associated [odds ratio (OR) 5.9-44.3, P < 0.0001 and OR 2.8-37.1, P < 0.0001, respectively). Based on co-varying symptomatology, a TD severity score accounting for diarrhoea frequency in addition to several signs and symptoms was a better predictor of negative impact on function than any single sign/symptom (X2 = 127.16, P < 0.001). Additionally, there was a significant difference (P < 0.0001) in the mean TD severity score between those with acute watery diarrhoea (3.9 ± 1.9) and those with dysentery or acute febrile illness (6.2 ± 2.0). Conclusions: The newly developed disease severity score better predicted a negative impact on activity due to TD than did any single sign or symptom. Incorporating multiple parameters into the TD severity score better captures illness severity and moves the field towards current recommendations for TD management by considering symptoms with high functional impact. Further validation of this score is needed in non-military travellers and other settings.
- Functional impact