Fecal coliform contamination in child day care environments in Houston, Texas

Rory Van, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Outbreaks of diarrhea are common among children in day care centers (DCC). Enteropathogens associated with these outbreaks are spread by the fecal-oral route through contaminated hands or environmental objects. This prospective study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of fecal coliform (FC) contamination in the DCC environment. Ten rooms in 6 DCC housing 121 children $<$2 years of age were studied for 13 weeks. Inanimate objects (1275), toy balls (724), and hands (954) were cultured 1-3 times per week. FC contamination was common during each week of study and was significantly (p $<$ 0.05) greater for objects, toy balls, and hands of children in toddler compared to infant rooms. In 5 rooms in which clothes were worn over diapers, there was a significantly lower prevalence of FC of toy balls (p $<$ 0.005), inanimate objects (p $<$ 0.05), and hands of children (p $<$ 0.001) and caregivers (p $<$ 0.05) when compared to rooms in which overclothes were not worn. Occurrence of diarrhea was significantly associated with increased contamination of caregivers' and children's hands. Using plasmid analysis of trimethoprim (TMP)-resistant Escherichia coli, stool and environmental isolates from individual DCC rooms had the same plasmid patterns, which were unique to each center. In summary, FC of environmental isolates and hands of children and caregivers in DCC is common; toy balls can serve as sentinels of contamination; FC can be significantly decreased by use of clothes worn over diapers; and plasmid analysis of E. coli strains showed the same patterns from stool and environmental isolates.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Van, Rory, "Fecal coliform contamination in child day care environments in Houston, Texas" (1990). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9109983.