Diarrheal Diseases

  • Sujata K. Bhatia


Diarrheal diseases are the fifth leading killer worldwide. In 2004, diarrheal disease was responsible for 2.16 million deaths or 3.7% of all deaths globally (World Health Organization 2008). Diarrhea disproportionately affects the young; over 90% of cases in the developing world occur in children under the age of 5 (Keusch et al. 2006). Because diarrheal infections strike within the first few years of life, they account for 7% of all years of life lost globally (World Health Organization 2008). Worldwide, diarrheal diseases are a leading cause of pediatric morbidity and mortality, with 1.5 billion episodes of diarrhea annually in children under 5. Diarrhea contributes to 20% of childhood deaths, resulting in approximately 2 million childhood deaths each year (Black et al. 2003). Particularly in developing countries, the young suffer from a seemingly never-ending sequence of infections, rarely receive appropriate preventive care, and encounter the healthcare system when they are already severely ill. A strong relationship exists between poverty , an unhygienic environment, and the number and severity of diarrheal episodes, especially for children under 5 years old (Keusch et al. 2006). However, diarrheal disease can occur at any age, in both rich and poor. When an individual is suffering from diarrhea, the underlying pathogen can be difficult to identify based on clinical symptoms alone, as a variety of microorganisms can cause similar diarrheal syndromes. A range of microorganisms may infect the human gastrointestinal tract and induce diarrhea, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Mixed infections of bacteria and viruses are not uncommon, further complicating the diagnostic process. Yet accurate diagnosis of the causative pathogen is often essential, not only for appropriate treatment of diarrhea, but also for epidemiological tracking of outbreaks as well as prevention of future infections. Many developing countries lack the sophisticated laboratory facilities, microscopy equipment, and resources required for accurate microbiologic diagnosis of diarrheal infection. To solve this dilemma, biomaterial scientists are creating new low-cost diagnostic devices, to permit cost-effective identification of gastrointestinal pathogens. Such devices will allow rapid and reliable diagnosis of patients suffering from diarrhea and will lower mortality from these diseases.


Diarrheal Disease Enteric Pathogen Watery Diarrhea Nucleic Acid Amplification Bloody Diarrhea 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Central Research and Development, DuPont CompanyWilmingtonUSA

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