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Clinical Management of Infectious Diarrhea

[ Vol. 15 , Issue. 4 ]


Valentina Siciliano*, Enrico Celestino Nista, Tommaso Rosà, Mattia Brigida and Francesco Franceschi   Pages 298 - 308 ( 11 )


Background: Infectious diarrhea is the most common cause of diarrhea worldwide and is responsible for more deaths than other gastrointestinal tract diseases such as gastrointestinal cancers, peptic ulcer disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Diarrheal disease still represents the 8th leading cause of death worldwide, with more than 1,6 million attributed fatalities in 2016 alone. The majority of cases can be divided into three principal clinical presentations: acute watery diarrhea lasting 5-10 days and normally self-limiting, bloody diarrhea (dysentery), and persistent diarrhea with or without intestinal malabsorption.

Methods: We performed an electronic search on PUBMED of the scientific literature concerning infectious diarrhea and its clinical management.

Aim: In this review article, we analyze the most important causes of infectious diarrhea and their constellation of signs and symptoms, providing an update on the diagnostic tools available in today’s practice and on the different treatment options.

Conclusion: Even though the majority of intestinal infections are self-limiting in immunocompetent individuals, specific diagnosis and identification of the causative agent remain crucial from public health and epidemiological perspectives. Specific diagnostic investigation can be reserved for patients with severe dehydration, more severe illness, persistent fever, bloody stools, immunosuppression, and for cases of suspected nosocomial infection or outbreak and it includes complete blood count, creatinine and electrolytes evaluation, determination of leukocytes and lactoferrin presence in the stools, stool culture, together with C. difficile testing, PCR, ova and parasites' search, endoscopy and abdominal imaging. Since acute diarrhea is most often self-limited and caused by viruses, routine antibiotic use is not recommended for most adults with mild, watery diarrhea. However, when used appropriately, antibiotics are effective against shigellosis, campylobacteriosis, C. difficile colitis, traveler’s diarrhea, and protozoal infections. Furthermore, antibiotics use should be considered in patients who are older than 65 years, immunocompromised, severely ill, or septic.


Diarrhea, infectious, infection, dysentery, antibiotics, antimicrobial, stool, c. difficile, microbiota, acute, virus, bacteria, protozoa, rehydration.


Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli IRCCS – Rome, Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli IRCCS – Rome, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore – Rome, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore – Rome, Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli IRCCS – Rome

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