South African Journal of Child Health

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Enteric pathogen co-infections in the paediatric population from rural communities in the Vhembe District, South Africa

S.E. Ledwaba, J.P. Kabue, T.G. Barnard, A.N. Traore, N Potgieter


Background. Enteric pathogens co-infections are a serious health risk in children under the age of 5 years.

Objective. The study aimed to determine the prevalence of diarrhoea-causing pathogens in children suffering from diarrhoea in rural communities of the Vhembe District.

Methods. A cross-sectional study was conducted from July 2014 to June 2015. Diarrhoeal stool specimens (N=237) were collected from children attending primary healthcare facilities in rural communities of the Vhembe District. Stools were screened for enteric viral adenovirus 40/41, rotavirus and norovirus pathogens by means of enzyme immuno-assay (EIA) and enteric bacterial Escherichia coli spp. (diarrhoeagenic pathotypes), Shigella spp., Salmonella spp. and Vibrio spp. pathogens by means of multiplex polymerase chain reaction.

Results. A total of 59.1% (140/237) were positive for at least one or more enteric pathogens. Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) (27.9%), enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) (26.8%) and atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) (17.9%) were frequently detected in children less than 2 years of age. Bacterial-bacteria co-infections were detected in 24.5% (n=58) and bacterial-viral co-infections in 14.3% (n=34) of the stool specimens.

Conclusion. The findings indicated that enteric pathogen co-infections are major causes of diarrhoea in children less than 2 years of age in the Vhembe District.
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