Research Article

Value of stool examination in patients with diarrhoea.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 286 doi: (Published 25 June 1983) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;286:2037
  1. B J Stoll,
  2. R I Glass,
  3. H Banu,
  4. M I Huq,
  5. M U Khan,
  6. M Ahmed


    Findings of stool examinations in 1593 patients with diarrhoea due to a single enteric pathogen--enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli rotavirus, Shigella, Campylobacter jejuni, Vibrio cholerae 0:1, Entamoeba histolytica, or Giardia lamblia--were reviewed to determine how well they predicted the agent associated with the diarrhoea. Specimens were examined visually for blood and mucus, tested for pH, and examined under a microscope for the presence of red and white blood cells, parasites, and stool fat. Although visible blood was more common in specimens from patients infected with Shigella (51%) and Ent histolytica (39%) than in those from patients infected with other agents (6%; p less than 0.01), patients infected with Shigella were most likely to have numerous faecal leucocytes (greater than 50/high power field: 39% v 8% of all patients and 7% of patients infected with Ent histolytica, p less than 0.01 in both cases). Patients infected with enterotoxigenic E coli, rotavirus, V cholerae 0:1, or C jejuni had loose stools with fewer red or white cells. Patients infected with rotavirus and C jejuni were more likely to have acid stools with 3 to 4+ fat, but these findings were related to young age and breast feeding. Stool examination is most useful in establishing a diagnosis of dysentery and in helping to distinguish between patients infected with Shigella and Ent histolytica; it is of limited usefulness in discriminating between pathogens causing watery diarrhoea.