Background. Immigration flow from developing countries to European countries is growing continually, but data about imported infectious diseases in immigrant children are few.
Methods. Descriptive and retrospective study of 125 sub-Saharan African children <14 years of age attending a tropical medicine referral unit in Madrid, Spain, between 1989 and 2001.
Results. Of the 125 children 79% had 1 or more symptoms. The remaining 21% (26 cases) were asymptomatic and were screened for infectious diseases. Of them 57.7% (15 cases) had 1 or more infectious diseases. Significant association (P < 0.05) was found between fever and malaria, between cutaneous pruritus and filariasis and between eosinophilia and filariasis and intestinal helminthiasis. Seventy-nine percent had infectious pathology and 33.3% were infected by 3 or more agents. Fifty-six (44.8%) cases of malaria were diagnosed: 7 (12.5%) were asymptomatic; 43 (76.8%) were caused by Plasmodium falciparum and 5 (8.9%) were mixed malarial infections. Intestinal parasitic infection was diagnosed in 44 (49.4%) of the 89 cases investigated. No significant difference existed between gastrointestinal symptoms and the presence of intestinal parasites (P > 0.05). Thirty-nine (21.9%) cases of filariasis were diagnosed. Hepatitis B serology was performed in 75 children: 24 (32%) were cured hepatitis B (antibody-positive only); 5 (6.6%) were hepatitis B surface antigen-positive; and 1 of 59 cases (1.7%) was hepatitis C-positive. The prevalence of latent tuberculosis infection was 12.9% (7 of 54 purified protein derivative skin tests performed).
Conclusions. The high infection rates of some diseases in immigrant children point to the need for screening sub-Saharan African children.