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Dual infections associated with acute infectious diarrhoea and its microbiological, epidemiological and clinical findings have been evaluated in patients selected from a comprehensive survey of children under 4 years old, admitted to hospital emergency rooms from October 1996 to November 1997. A total of 820 children (433 males and 387 females) were enrolled. Stools were tested for rotavirus, adenovirus, astrovirus and bacterial enteropathogens. Patients were grouped according to age, and the seasonality of mixed infections was evaluated. Clinical trends and severity of gastrointestinal disease by Ruuska's score were also analysed. Mixed infections were identified in 39 cases (5 %), of which 23 were males and 16 were females. The majority of cases were in the 7-18-month age group (26 cases) and occurred in autumn (67 %). Virus-virus co-infections were more frequent (26/39) than virus-bacteria co-infections (13/39). More than two infectious agents were detected in only four cases. The most common viral co-infections were rotavirus-astrovirus (13/26) and rotavirus-adenovirus (10/26). The present report is the first prospective analysis of clinical-epidemiological trends of dual infections in young Spanish children with acute viral gastroenteritis. Our results emphasize the clinical importance of mixed infections as a cause of severe diarrhoea in children.

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