Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces? - And child faeces disposal practices

  • emilype
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Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces? - And child faeces disposal practices

I've heard it said that there is a greater concentration of pathogens in child feces than in adult feces. Does anyone have a reference for that or evidence that the opposite might be true?
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

Hmm, can't point you to a reference off my head, but I *think* that is not really correct.

As far as I am aware, toddler feces, especially those still primarily breast fed are usually *perceived* as not dangerous, which is however not necessarily the case, especially when the child has diarrhea. In general as the immune system of a child is still weaker, you can maybe expect there to be more surviving pathogens in the stool in case of a disease incident.

So I guess the relatively low awareness combined with the potentially higher pathogen load, is where the idea comes from that child-feces are more dangerous. But I don't think that can be stated in general.

Can anyone else link to a good publication on that general topic?

Krischan Makowka
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  • joeturner
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

I am pretty sure I've read academic work that suggests there are more pathogens in children, but I don't recall where I saw it or the reasoning.

I have found this paper which (appears to) suggests this (see esp fig 1 ), I will do some more work and see if there what other sources there are.
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

That graphic is slightly misleading, it only states the relative presence of different pathogens in the stool of diarrhea effected persons according to age-groups (in this case specifically for E. coli strains, the missing percentages to 100 are other causes like adenovirus etc. where no pathogenic E.coli were found in the stool samples).

This has basically no meaning in regards to pathogen concentration, e.g. the total level of risk.

At most one could maybe conclude that the feces from one age-group are more likely to be dangerous to the individuals from the same age-group (or that different ages groups have different vulnerabilities to certain pathogens as the authors seem to argue), but as I suspect the samples were taken in relative proximity, this rather just proves that different age-groups are likely to have different sources of infection due to different lifestyles.

Krischan Makowka
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

JKMakowka wrote: That graphic is slightly misleading, it only states the relative presence of different pathogens in the stool of diarrhea effected persons according to age-groups (in this case specifically for E. coli strains, the missing percentages to 100 are other causes like adenovirus etc. where no pathogenic E.coli were found in the stool samples).

This has basically no meaning in regards to pathogen concentration, e.g. the total level of risk.

At most one could maybe conclude that the feces from one age-group are more likely to be dangerous to the individuals from the same age-group (or that different ages groups have different vulnerabilities to certain pathogens as the authors seem to argue), but as I suspect the samples were taken in relative proximity, this rather just proves that different age-groups are likely to have different sources of infection due to different lifestyles.


Hmm. Well it is true that the samples were taken from individuals who had diarrhea, so the cases where none of the identified strains were identified either had no pathogens or had pathogens that were not measured. That said, more of the children had more of the measured pathogens.
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

I can't find anything much that has specifically compared pathogens in child faecal stools to adult stools.

Wouldn't we expect more children to pick up more infections (so that the children are 'reservoirs' of disease compared to adults), and hence have a higher risk of pathogens in faeces? Or do we say that infection rates are consistent across age groups in a given area?
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

joeturner wrote: Wouldn't we expect more children to pick up more infections (so that the children are 'reservoirs' of disease compared to adults), and hence have a higher risk of pathogens in faeces?


Without being aware of related studies, this is what I'd expect as well.

There was no context given with the question, so I'd just like to add that even if child feces would indeed have generally higher pathogen load than adults, that wouldn't change a thing for sanitation and hygiene measures needed.

Florian Klingel
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

Putting some more emphasis on how to deal with the feces from infants and toddlers, who generally are not using toilets yet, is probably needed though.
Not because they are more dangerous per se, but simply because their handling is usually given little attention (for example the diapers are simply washed by hand and the polluted wash-water thrown out just like other wash-water).

Krischan Makowka
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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

Women (mothers) in the rural areas of Sindh, Pakistan, do not wash their hands, after anal cleaning of infants, because they believe infants' feces are harmless. This concept is in practice in Sindh since the last 100 years!

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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

Florian wrote:
There was no context given with the question, so I'd just like to add that even if child feces would indeed have generally higher pathogen load than adults, that wouldn't change a thing for sanitation and hygiene measures needed.


I have been thinking about this - if it could be shown that in an individual community, a particular group or age group was a source of continued reinfection, I think it is a reasonable suggestion to treat the faeces from that group differently to the wider community.

There are lots of 'ifs' there, but I don't think it follows that there could never be a differential need for sanitation and hygiene measures. If you have limited funds, it surely makes most sense to target those who are having most effect on the wider community (assuming, of course, that you actually know this rather than just guessing).

F H Mughal's comment is also interesting. If there is a group where there is obviously limited sanitation and hygiene, it would probably make good sense to target that group, particularly when they're especially susceptible such as mothers and small children.
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

Typhoid Mary obviously shouldn't be working in a kitchen, but I think what Florian meant is the the goal of proper sanitation is to contain and treat all of it regardless of the actual pathogen content (to be on the safe side).

Krischan Makowka
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Re: Is there a greater concentration of pathogens in child or adult feces?

There is a good resource here: www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContent...d/PDF/multi0page.pdf

See page 46 for baby vs child vs teen vs adult.
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