The new study focused on 684 children, less than five years of age, who were treated at Cincinnati Children's emergency department for acute gastroenteritis. Researchers examined six different strains of E. coli and compared the results with those of 555 healthy children. They found that nearly 10 percent of children treated in the emergency department for gastroenteritis tested positive for enteroaggregative E. coli.
In the study, researchers reported that the visible signs of an enteroaggregative E. coli infection, such as vomiting and diarrhea, were virtually indistinguishable from other pathogens that cause diarrhea. For example, the visible signs of rotavirus, which was identified in 20 percent of the children in the study, are identical to that of an E. coli infection.
"Very frequently when children have diarrhea, medical professionals suggest they have viral diarrhea, and while that is a possibility, we can't be certain unless we test for the presence of other pathogens, such as E. coli," he said.
While diarrhea in children is a significant cause of illness in the United States, it is a significant cause of illness and death in children in developing countries where malnutrition and frequent infection has reached pandemic proportions.