Infection-induced anaemia: a cross-sectional study of 14,636 German travellers aged 20–49 years
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- Herbinger, KH., Metzner, M., Schmidt, V. et al. Infection (2013) 41: 1079. doi:10.1007/s15010-013-0528-6
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Anaemia is a frequently diagnosed condition which can develop as a consequence of numerous factors, including infectious diseases (IDs). Travelling, especially in sub-/tropical regions, leads to an elevated risk of contracting IDs. The aim of our study was to assess the epidemiological significance of IDs in inducing anaemia among a large cohort of returned travellers.
This was a cross-sectional study in which data on 17,009 returned travellers aged 20–49 years who consulted the travel medicine clinic of the University of Munich between 1999 and 2011 were retrieved and analysed.
Of the returned travellers, 8.3 % (6.0 % of males/10.4 % of females) were diagnosed with anaemia. The prevalence of anaemia was significantly elevated among patients of African (21.4/28.3 %) and Asian (11.6/15.7 %) origin. When the study population was restricted to the 14,636 travellers of German origin, 7.1 % of the returned travellers (4.6/9.6 %) were diagnosed with anaemia. The prevalence was significantly elevated among patients who travelled for >30 days (5.7 of males/10.6 % of females) and for male travellers visiting friends and relatives (7.7 %). However, these correlations were confounded by malaria. The prevalence of anaemia was significantly elevated only among returned travellers diagnosed with malaria (36.1 of males/26.9 % of females) and with symptomatic intestinal Entamoeba histolytica infections (30.0/33.3 %).
Following the exclusion of confounding by malaria from the statistical analysis, the prevalence of anaemia was found to be significantly elevated among patients of African and Asian origin, and among patients of German origin who had travelled for >30 days, it could be mainly attributable to chronic, long-lasting causes. Although more than 550 travel-associated IDs were assessed in our study, only symptomatic intestinal Entamoeba histolytica infections and, to an even larger extent, malaria were determined to be of epidemiological significance for inducing anaemia among travellers.