Etiology of diarrhea in young children in Denmark: a case-control study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Infectious gastroenteritis is one of the most common diseases in young children. To clarify the infectious etiology of diarrhea in Danish children less than 5 years of age, we conducted a 2-year prospective case-control study. Stools from 424 children with diarrhea and 870 asymptomatic age-matched controls were examined, and their parents were interviewed concerning symptoms. Rotavirus, adenovirus, and astrovirus were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and norovirus and sapovirus were detected by PCR. Salmonella, thermotolerant Campylobacter, Yersinia, Shigella, and Vibrio spp. were detected by standard methods. Shiga toxin-producing (STEC), attaching-and-effacing (A/EEC), enteropathogenic (EPEC), enterotoxigenic, enteroinvasive, and enteroaggregative Escherichia coli were detected by using colony hybridization with virulence gene probes and serotyping. Parasites were detected by microscopy. Overall, a potential pathogen was found in 54% of cases. More cases than controls were infected with rotavirus, Salmonella, norovirus, adenovirus, Campylobacter, sapovirus, STEC, classical EPEC, Yersinia, and Cryptosporidium strains, whereas A/EEC, although common, was not associated with illness. The single most important cause of diarrhea was rotavirus, which points toward the need for a childhood vaccine for this pathogen, but norovirus, adenovirus, and sapovirus were also major etiologies. Salmonella sp. was the most common bacterial pathogen, followed by Campylobacter, STEC, Yersinia, and classical EPEC strains. A/EEC not belonging to the classical EPEC serotypes was not associated with diarrhea, underscoring the importance of serotyping for the definition of EPEC.


  • Bente Olesen
  • Jacob Neimann
  • Blenda Böttiger
  • Steen Ethelberg
  • Peter Schiellerup
  • Charlotte Jensen
  • Morten Helms
  • Flemming Scheutz
  • Katharina E P Olsen
  • Karen Krogfelt
  • Eskild Petersen
  • Kåre Mølbak
  • Peter Gerner-Smidt
External organisations
  • Danish Serum Institute, Copenhagen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Microbiology in the medical area


  • Case-Control Studies, Child, Preschool, Diarrhea/etiology, Escherichia coli/isolation & purification, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Prospective Studies, Rotavirus/isolation & purification
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3636-3641
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Aug
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes