Alberta Provincial Pediatric EnTeric Infection TEam (APPETITE): epidemiology, emerging organisms, and economics
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BACKGROUND: Each year in Canada there are 5 million episodes of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) with up to 70% attributed to an unidentified pathogen. Moreover, 90% of individuals with AGE do not seek care when ill, thus, burden of disease estimates are limited by under-diagnosing and under-reporting. Further, little is known about the pathogens causing AGE as the majority of episodes are attributed to an "unidentified" etiology. Our team has two main objectives: 1) to improve health through enhanced enteric pathogen identification; 2) to develop economic models incorporating pathogen burden and societal preferences to inform enteric vaccine decision making. METHODS/DESIGN: This project involves multiple stages: 1) Molecular microbiology experts will participate in a modified Delphi process designed to define criteria to aid in interpreting positive molecular enteric pathogen test results. 2) Clinical data and specimens will be collected from children aged 0-18 years, with vomiting and/or diarrhea who seek medical care in emergency departments, primary care clinics and from those who contact a provincial medical advice line but who do not seek care. Samples to be collected will include stool, rectal swabs (N = 2), and an oral swab. Specimens will be tested employing 1) stool culture; 2) in-house multiplex (N = 5) viral polymerase chain reaction (PCR) panel; and 3) multi-target (N = 15) PCR commercially available array. All participants will have follow-up data collected 14 days later to enable calculation of a Modified Vesikari Scale score and a Burden of Disease Index. Specimens will also be collected from asymptomatic children during their well child vaccination visits to a provincial public health clinic. Following the completion of the initial phases, discrete choice experiments will be conducted to enable a better understanding of societal preferences for diagnostic testing and vaccine policy. All of the results obtained will be integrated into economic models. DISCUSSION: This study is collecting novel samples (e.g., oral swabs) from previously untested groups of children (e.g., those not seeking medical care) which are then undergoing extensive molecular testing to shed a new perspective on the epidemiology of AGE. The knowledge gained will provide the broadest understanding of the epidemiology of vomiting and diarrhea of children to date.
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