A prospective observational study describing severity of acquired diarrhea among U.S. military and Western travelers participating in the Global Travelers’ Diarrhea Study

Hayley R. Ashbaugh*, June M. Early, Myles E. Johnson, Mark P. Simons, Paul C.F. Graf, Mark S. Riddle, Brett E. Swierczewski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Travelers’ diarrhea (TD) is one of the most common illnesses affecting modern-day travelers, including military personnel. Previous work has shown that afflicted travelers may alter their itineraries and be confined to bed rest due to symptoms, and military personnel may become incapable of completing operational requirements. Examination of signs, symptoms, and severity of diarrheagenic pathogens can inform clinical diagnosis and prioritization of future surveillance and research activities. Methods: Utilizing a global laboratory network, culture and molecular testing were performed in parallel at each site on a group of core pathogens, and definitions for acute diarrhea (AD), severe AD, acute gastroenteritis (AGE), and severe AGE were determined using data elements in the modified Vesikari scale. We included 210 cases of TD reporting all variables of interest in our severity assessment analysis. Results: Out of all cases, 156/210 (74%) met criteria for severe AD and 35/210 (17%) for severe AGE. Examination of severity by pathogen revealed that, at non-military sites, 17/19 (89%) of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli) (EPEC) infections, 28/32 (88%) of enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) infections, and 13/15 (87%) of Shigella/enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC) infections resulted in severe AD cases. At the military site, all infections of ETEC (6/6), Shigella-EIEC (4/4), and enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) resulted in AD. Norovirus infections at non-military and military sites resulted in 27% (14/51) and 33% (3/9) severe AGE cases, respectively. Conclusions: This study found a high percentage of participants enrolled at both military and non-military sites experienced severe AD with concerning numbers of severe cases at non-military sites reporting hospitalization and reductions in performance. Since travelers with mild TD symptoms are less likely to present to health care workers than those with more severe TD, there is a potential selection bias in this study that may have overestimated the proportion of more severe outcomes among all individuals who could have participated in the GTD study. Future research should examine other covariates among pathogen and host, such as treatment and comorbid conditions, that may contribute to the presence of signs and symptoms and their severity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102139
JournalTravel Medicine and Infectious Disease
Volume43
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Acute diarrhea
  • Acute gastroenteritis
  • Laboratory surveillance
  • Military
  • Travelers' diarrhea

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