Persisting abdominal symptoms after travelers' diarrhea: Is there a genetic predisposition?

Parvathy Nair, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) are defined as ailments of the mid or lower gastrointestinal tract which are not attributable to any discernable anatomic or biochemical defects.1 FGIDs include functional bowel disorders, also known as persisting abdominal symptoms (PAS). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common illnesses classified under PAS.2,3 This is the first prospective study that looks at the etiology and pathogenesis of post-infectious PAS in the context of environmental exposure and genetic susceptibility in a cohort of US travelers to Mexico. Our objective was to identify infectious, genetic and environmental factors that predispose to post infectious PAS. Methods. This is a secondary data analysis of a prospective study on a cohort of 704 healthy North American tourists to Cuernavaca, Morelos and Guadalajara, Jalisco in Mexico. The subjects at risk for Travelers' diarrhea were assessed for chronic abdominal symptoms on enrollment and six months after the return to the US. Outcomes. PAS was defined as disturbances of mid and lower gastrointestinal system without any known pathological or radiological abnormalities, or infectious, or metabolic causes. It refers to functional bowel disease, category C of functional gastrointestinal diseases as defined by the Rome II criterion. PAS was sub classified into Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional abdominal disease (FAD). IBS is defined as recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort present at least 25% and associated with improvement with defecation, change in frequency and form of stool. FAD encompasses other abdominal symptoms of chronic nature that do not meet the criteria for IBS. It includes functional diarrhea, functional constipation, functional bloating: and unspecified bowel symptoms. Results. Among the 704 travelers studied, there were 202 cases of PAS. The PAS cases included 175 cases of FAD and 27 cases of IBS. PAS was more frequent among subjects who developed traveler's diarrhea in Mexico compared to travelers who remained healthy during the short term visit to Mexico (52 vs. 38; OR = 1.8; CI, 1.3–2.5, P < 0.001). A statistically significant difference was noted in the mean age of subjects with PAS compared to healthy controls (28 vs. 34 yrs; OR = 0.97, CI, 0.95–0.98; P < 0.001). Travelers who experienced multiple episodes, a later onset of diarrhea in Mexico and passed greater numbers of unformed stools were more likely to be identified in PAS group at six months. Participants who developed TD caused by enterotoxigenic E.coli in Mexico showed a 2.6 times higher risk of developing FAD (P = 0.003). Infection with Providencia ssp. also demonstrated a greater risk to developing PAS. Subjects who sought treatment for diarrhea while in Mexico also displayed a significantly lower frequency of IBS at six months follow up (OR = 0.30; CI, 0.10–0.80; P = 0.02). Forty six SNPs belonging to 14 genes were studied. Seven SNPs were associated with PAS at 6 months. These included four SNPs from the Caspase Recruitment Domain-Containing Protein 15 gene (CARD15), two SNPs from Surfactant Pulmonary-Associated Protein D gene (SFTPD) and one from Decay-Accelerating Factor For Complement gene (CD55). A genetic risk score (GRS) was composed based on the 7 SNPs that showed significant association with PAS. A 20% greater risk for PAS was noted for every unit increase in GRS. The risk increased by 30% for IBS. The mean GRS was high for IBS (2.2) and PAS (1.1) compared to healthy controls (0.51). These data suggests a role for these genetic polymorphisms in defining the susceptibility to PAS. Conclusions. The study allows us to identify individuals at risk for developing post infectious IBS (PI-IBS) and persisting abdominal symptoms after an episode of TD. The observations in this study will be of use in developing measures to prevent and treat post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome among travelers including pre-travel counseling, the use of vaccines, antibiotic prophylaxis or the initiation of early antimicrobial therapy. This study also provides insights into the pathogenesis of post infectious PAS and IBS. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Biostatistics|Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Nair, Parvathy, "Persisting abdominal symptoms after travelers' diarrhea: Is there a genetic predisposition?" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3330847.