Purpose: To describe the profile of comorbidities in children admitted with diarrhea to an urban hospital with high human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence in South Africa and to examine the contribution of comorbidities to inpatient mortality.
Methods: Data from a retrospective random sample of 319 children were extracted and analyzed from a total of 1145 children hospitalized for diarrhea in 2001. We used multiple logistic regression models to determine the independent effects of HIV infection, malnutrition, pneumonia and bacteremia on inpatient mortality.
Results: Overall 68% of the diarrheal admissions were classified as HIV-infected and 61% were classified as malnourished, with 53% having evidence of both. HIV infection was strongly associated with malnutrition, pneumonia and bacteremia. Inpatient mortality was 14% [95% confidence interval (CI), 11–19%]. Mortality was higher among HIV-infected than among uninfected children [crude odds ratio (OR), 6.0; 95% CI 2.1–17.0]. History of low birth weight, previous admission, malnutrition, HIV infection, pneumonia, bacteremia, low hemoglobin, total white blood cell count and serum albumin were significant predictors of mortality in univariate analyses. After adjustment, severe malnutrition (OR 2.1; 95% CI 1.0–4.9), bacteremia (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.2–7.2) and pneumonia (OR 3.9; 95% CI 1.3–12.0) remained independent predictors of mortality, whereas the association between HIV infection and mortality was significantly diminished (OR 4.0; 95% CI 0.8–18.1).
Conclusion: In a setting of high HIV prevalence, malnutrition, bacteremia and pneumonia contribute independently to death in children hospitalized with diarrheal disease.