Etiology of Bloody Diarrhea among Patients Presenting to United States Emergency Departments: Prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Other Enteropathogens

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Escherichia coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin—producing E. coli (STEC) infections have been associated with bloody diarrhea. The prevalence of enteropathogens among patients with bloody diarrhea was determined by a prospective study at 11 US emergency departments. Eligible patients had bloody stools, ≥3 loose stool samples per 24-h period, and an illness lasting <7 days. Among 873 patients with 877 episodes of bloody diarrhea, stool samples for culture were obtained in 549 episodes (62.6%). Stool cultures were more frequently ordered for patients with fever, >10 stools/day, and visibly bloody stools than for patients without these findings. Enteropathogens were identified in 168 episodes (30.6%): Shigella (15.3%), Campylobacter (6.2%), Salmonella (5.8%), STEC (2.6%), and other (1.6%). Enteropathogens were isolated during 12.5% of episodes that physicians thought were due to a noninfectious cause. The prevalence of STEC infection varied by site from 0% to 6.2%. Hospital admissions resulted from 195 episodes (23.4%). These data support recommendations that stool samples be cultured for patients with acute bloody diarrhea.

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