Travelers? diarrhea, which is commonly caused by bacterial infections and is often regarded as little more than a nuisance for vacationers, may trigger chronic conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This study finding was presented at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, held in October 2003 in San Diego, Calif.
Pablo Okhuysen, MD, and colleagues followed 146 students who traveled to Mexico for 4 weeks and found that having diarrhea while traveling was correlated with an increased risk of developing IBS. Only 1 student met the criteria for IBS before travel, compared with 7 after travel. All students who reported posttravel IBS had experienced diarrhea in Mexico, whereas none of the students who were asymptomatic while in Mexico met the definition of IBS 6 months after travel.
The goal, according to the authors, should be to prevent travelers? diarrhea. Barring that, they conclude that this study should serve as a ?wake-up? call about the importance of following up on patients who develop gastrointestinal symptoms while traveling.