BACKGROUND: High-resolution data on the etiology of childhood diarrhea in countries with the highest burden and mortality remain sparse and are needed to inform burden estimates and prioritize interventions.
METHODS: We tested stool specimens collected between October 2014 and December 2017 from children under 2 years of age from the per-protocol population of a placebo-controlled clinical trial of a bovine rotavirus pentavalent vaccine (Rotasiil) in Niger. We tested 1729 episodes of moderate-to-severe diarrhea (Vesikari score ≥ 7) using quantitative PCR and estimated pathogen-specific burdens by age, season, severity, and trial intervention arm.
RESULTS: The 4 pathogens with the highest attributable incidence of diarrhea were Shigella (7.2 attributable episodes per 100 child-years; 95% confidence interval: 5.2, 9.7), Cryptosporidium (6.5; 5.8, 7.2), rotavirus (6.4; 5.9, 6.7), and heat-stabile toxin-producing enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ST-ETEC) (6.2; 3.1, 7.7). Cryptosporidium was the leading etiology of severe diarrhea (Vesikari score ≥ 11) and diarrhea requiring hospitalization. Shigella was the leading etiology of diarrhea in children 12-23 months of age but also had a substantial burden in the first year of life, with 60.5% of episodes of severe shigellosis occurring in infants. Shigella, Cryptosporidium, and ST-ETEC incidence peaked during the warmer and wetter period and coincided with peak all-cause diarrhea incidence.
CONCLUSIONS: In this high-burden setting, the leading diarrheal pathogens were Shigella, Cryptosporidium, rotavirus, and ST-ETEC, and each was disproportionately seen in infants. Vaccine development should target these pathogens, and the impact of vaccine schedule on diarrhea burden in the youngest children will need to be considered.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.