at a glance
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death and causes high morbidity in children under five years old. Every year, around 525 000 children die of diarrhoeal disease. As diarrhoeal episodes usually follow the ingestion of contaminated food or water, children and individuals living in low- and middle-income countries are particularly at risk. It is estimated that currently about 780 million people lack access to improved drinking-water and 2.5 billion lack improved sanitation. The most common etiological agents of moderate-to-severe diarrhoea in in low-income countries are rotavirus and Escherichia coli.
Other important pathogens include Cryptosporidium and Shigella species. Shigella and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) account for about 200 million episodes of diarrhoea per year and are directly or indirectly responsible for about 107 500 annual deaths in children under 5-years of age. The African region and the South Eastern Asian region have the highest percentage of ETEC episodes, while most Shigella cases occur in the African region, Eastern Mediterranean region and Southern Asian region.
deaths annually in children under 5
1 in 10
cases annually of childhood diarrhoeal disease
of the world's population at risk
For those surviving infections, it has been observed that prolonged and/or repeated symptomatic episodes in childhood can have long term consequences such as reduced cognitive development, poorer educational outcomes, reduced wages and increased risk of non-communicable diseases in adulthood, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty in low-resource settings.
Conventional treatment includes rehydration therapy and the use of antibiotics. However, given the emergence of multi-drug resistance strains of ETEC and Shigella the development of alternative interventions is becoming increasingly imperative.