Defining Pediatric Diarrhea in Low-Resource Settings.

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Abstract

Differences in definitions of acute pediatric diarrhea result in variable estimates of morbidity and mortality, treatment coverage, and associations with risk factors and outcomes. We reviewed published literature and guidelines focused on acute pediatric diarrhea in low- and middle-income countries. Clinical guidelines most commonly defined diarrhea in terms of quantity of loose or watery stool with consideration of normal stool patterns, whereas research studies often relied exclusively on a quantitative definition. The most commonly used quantitative definition, ≥3 loose or watery stools in a 24-hour period, has been compared to gold standards of caregiver perception and visual inspection of stool, with variable agreement. Age, breast-feeding status, and setting (facility vs household-based) influence the performance of quantitative diarrhea definitions in children. Universal adoption of a set of valid gold standard definitions specifically aligned with various programmatic and research goals will lead to more accurate coverage estimates and better-informed resource prioritization.

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