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Infectious diseases in sub-Saharan African immigrant children in Madrid, Spain


The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: September 2002 - Volume 21 - Issue 9 - p 830-834
Original Studies

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.

From the Tropical Medicine Unit, Department of Infectious Diseases, Hospital Ramón y Cajal, Madrid, Spain.

Accepted for publication May 2, 2002.

Address for reprints: R. López-Vélez. Tropical Medicine Unit, Department of Infectious Diseases. Hospital Ramón y Cajal. Apartado 31057, Madrid 28034, Spain. Fax 34-91-3368809; E-mail

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.