Infectious diarrhea

Infectious diarrhea

Name = Infectious diarrhea

Caption =
DiseasesDB =
ICD10 =
ICD9 = ICD9|009.2
MedlinePlus =
eMedicineSubj = search
eMedicineTopic = diarrhea
MeshID = D004403

:"See also Gastroenteritis and Enteritis"Infectious diarrhea may be defined as diarrhea caused by an infection of the digestive system by a bacterium, virus, or parasite that results in frequent bowel motions producing excessive amounts of watery stool. [ [ Infectious Diarrhea.] ]


This can nearly always be presumed to be infective, although only in a minority of cases is this formally proven. The diarrhea is usually viral in origin, and is mostly caused by "Norovirus", "Rotavirus", "Adenovirus", or "Astrovirus".

The most common organisms found are "Campylobacter" (from animal products), "Salmonella" (also often from animal foodstuffs), "Cryptosporidium" (ditto), and "Giardia lamblia" (lives in water). "Shigella" dysentery is less common, and usually human in origin. Cholera is rare in Western countries. It is more common in travelers and is usually related to contaminated water (its ultimate source is probably sea water). "Escherichia coli" is a very common cause of diarrhea, especially Traveler's diarrhea, but it can be difficult to detect using current technology. The types of "E. coli" vary from area to area and country to country. "Clostridium difficile" is considered the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in hospitalized patients worldwide. [cite web |url= |title=Clostridium difficile (C. difficile): Questions and Answers - Public Health Agency of Canada |accessdate=2007-08-16 |format= |work=]

Viruses, particularly rotavirus, are common in children. (Viral diarrhea is probably over-diagnosed by non-doctors). Norwalk virus can also cause these symptoms.

Toxins and food poisoning can cause diarrhea. These include staphylococcal toxin (often from milk products due to an infected wound in workers), and "Bacillus cereus". Often "food poisoning" is really "Salmonella" infection. Diarrhea can also be caused by ingesting foods that contain indigestible material, for instance, escolar and olestra.

Parasites and worms sometimes cause diarrhea but are often accompanied by weight loss, irritability, rashes or anal itching. The most common is pinworm (mostly a nuisance rather than a severe medical illness). Other worms, such as hookworm, ascaria, and tapeworm are more medically significant and may cause weight loss, anemia, general unwellness and allergy problems. Amoebic dysentery due to "Entamoeba histolytica" is an important cause of bloody diarrhea in travelers and also sometimes in western countries.


In more severe cases, or where it is important to find the cause of the illness, stool cultures are instituted.

Among medical inpatients, the presence of fecal leukocytes can predict a "breach in the colonic mucosa (any infectious or inflammatory condition, blood in the stool, or acute vascular insufficiency)"cite journal |author=Granville LA, Cernoch P, Land GA, Davis JR |title=Performance assessment of the fecal leukocyte test for inpatients |journal=J. Clin. Microbiol. |volume=42 |issue=3 |pages=1254–6 |year=2004 |pmid=15004086 |doi=10.1128/JCM.42.3.1254-1256.2004] :
* sensitivity = 28%
* specificity = 92%


With mild cases of acute diarrhea, it is often reasonable to reassure a patient, ensure adequate fluid intake, and wait and see. For children in the developing world, the World Health Organization recommends the use of oral rehydration solution and zinc supplementation for treatment of diarrhea. [ [ USAID. Diarrhea Treatment Guidelines For Clinic-based Healthcare Workers: Including new recommendations for the use of ORS and zinc supplementation. 2005.] ]

Parasites (worms and amoeba) should always be treated with antimicrobial drugs.

Antimotility agents

Loperamide can reduce diarrhea in patients with shigellacite journal |author=Murphy GS, Bodhidatta L, Echeverria P, "et al" |title=Ciprofloxacin and loperamide in the treatment of bacillary dysentery |journal=Ann. Intern. Med. |volume=118 |issue=8 |pages=582–6 |year=1993 |pmid=8452323 |doi=] , but not in patients with traveler's diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic "E. coli".cite journal |author=Taylor DN, Sanchez JL, Candler W, Thornton S, McQueen C, Echeverria P |title=Treatment of travelers' diarrhea: ciprofloxacin plus loperamide compared with ciprofloxacin alone. A placebo-controlled, randomized trial |journal=Ann. Intern. Med. |volume=114 |issue=9 |pages=731–4 |year=1991 |pmid=2012354 |doi=]

A systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that loperamide may harm children less than 3 years old.

Antisecretory agents

A randomized controlled trial found that racecadotril, an enkephalinase inhibitor, may reduce the volume of watery diarrhea.cite journal |author=Salazar-Lindo E, Santisteban-Ponce J, Chea-Woo E, Gutierrez M |title=Racecadotril in the treatment of acute watery diarrhea in children |journal=N. Engl. J. Med. |volume=343 |issue=7 |pages=463–7 |year=2000 |pmid=10944563 |doi=10.1056/NEJM200008173430703]


Norfloxacin can reduce the duration of acute diarrhea due to bacterial pathogens.cite journal |author=Wiström J, Jertborn M, Ekwall E, "et al" |title=Empiric treatment of acute diarrheal disease with norfloxacin. A randomized, placebo-controlled study. Swedish Study Group |journal=Ann. Intern. Med. |volume=117 |issue=3 |pages=202–8 |year=1992 |pmid=1616214 |doi=] However, norfloxacin may prolong infectivity of patients with salmonella and cause resistant campylobacter.


Acute infectious diarrhea usually lasts 7 days when not treated with antibiotics. It is not uncommon for diarrhea to persist. Diarrhea due to some organisms may persist for years without significant long term illness. More commonly the diarrhea slowly ameliorates but the patient becomes a carrier (harbors the infection without illness). This is often an indication for treatment, especially in food workers or institution workers. In the developing world, infectious diarrhea is a serious, life-threatening illness that results in 4 to 6 million deaths each year, mostly in children. [ [ World Health Organization. Diarrhoeal Diseases.] ]

"Salmonella" is the most common persistent bacterial organism in humans.Fact|date=August 2007


ee also

*Wilderness diarrhea

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