Campylobacter infection in children in Malawi is common and is frequently associated with enteric virus co-infections.
Mason J., Iturriza-Gomara M., O'Brien SJ., Ngwira BM., Dove W., Maiden MCJ., Cunliffe NA.
BACKGROUND: Campylobacter species are the most common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in the developed world. However, comparatively few studies have determined the epidemiological features of campylobacteriosis in resource-poor settings. METHODS: A total of 1,941 faecal specimens collected from symptomatic (diarrhoeic) children and 507 specimens from asymptomatic (non-diarrhoeic) children hospitalised in Blantyre, Malawi, between 1997 and 2007, and previously tested for the presence of rotavirus and norovirus, was analysed for C. jejuni and C. coli using a real time PCR assay. RESULTS: Campylobacter species were detected in 415/1,941 (21%) of diarrhoeic children, with C. jejuni accounting for 85% of all cases. The median age of children with Campylobacter infection was 11 months (range 0.1-55 months), and was significantly higher than that for children with rotavirus and norovirus (6 months and 7 months respectively; P<0.001). Co-infection with either rotavirus or norovirus was noted in 41% of all cases in the diarrhoeic group. In contrast, the detection rate of Campylobacter in the non-diarrhoeic group was 14%, with viral co-infection identified in 16% of children with Campylobacter. There was no association between Campylobacter detection rate and season over the 10 year period. DISCUSSION: Using molecular detection methodology in hospitalised Malawian children, we have demonstrated a high prevalence of Campylobacter infection, with frequent viral co-infection. The burden of Campylobacter infection in young African children may be greater than previously recognised.