Prevalence of gastrointestinal pathogens in developed and developing countries: systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Stephanie M. Fletcher
    he iThree Institute and School of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology, Australia.
  • Mary-Louise McLaws
    The iThree Institute and School of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology; School of Public Health and Community Medicine, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
  • John T. Ellis
    The iThree Institute and School of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology, Australia.


Diarrhoeal illness is a leading cause of child mortality and morbidity worldwide. There are no precise or current estimates of the types and prevalence of pathogens associated with diarrheal illnesses in developed and developing settings. This systematic review assessed data from 60 studies published in the English language from five developing regions and developed countries worldwide to provide regional estimates of enteric pathogens affecting children. The random-effect method was used to establish the weighted average prevalence of pathogens in adults and children for each region. Significantly more pathogens were reported by studies from developing regions compared with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (P<0.016). The identification rates of pathogens from community based and hospital based studies were similar (58.5% and 58.1% respectively, P<0.619). The overall detection of enteric pathogens in developing countries was higher in adults (74.8%; 95% CI 63.1-83.8%) compared with children (56.7%; 95% CI 53.0-60.4%) (P<0.001). Rotavirus was the most frequently detected pathogen in all regions with the highest rate, 24.8% (95% CI 18.0-33.1%), detected in the developed countries. This systematic review is the first to provide an estimate of the prevalence of enteric pathogens associated with diarrhoeal illnesses in adults and children in developed and developing settings. While pathogen detection rate is greater in developing regions the consistently high prevalence of rotavirus in both developed and developing settings underscores the urgent need for access to rotavirus vaccines. Increased travel between developing and developed countries increases disease risk, and hence developed countries have a vested interest in supporting vaccine accessibility in developing settings.

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