Alberta researchers to study gastrointestinal bugs in kids

Alberta researchers are launching a $5-million study to learn more about why kids suffer from vomiting and diarrhea.

More than 30,000 children in the province are admitted to ERs every year because of serious intestinal problems, but in many of those cases doctors are unable to pinpoint the cause. Young children are especially vulnerable – they can suffer two intestinal infections a year.

“Vomiting and diaiarrea remain one of the most common reasons children aged six to 24 months are brought for emergency department care,” said  researcher Dr. Stephen Freedman. “These symptoms are extremely worrisome to parents and can on occasion leader to life-threatening conditions.”

The study will examine samples from 4,550 children using state-0f-the-art molecular tests to screen for 15 different pathogens.

“The main one that we’re really interested in focusing on is Norovirus,” said Freedman. “People associated that with cruise ship outbreaks and senior citizen residence outbreaks but we believe it’s a very common cause of vomiting that’s been under- appreciated.”

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Vaccines for various viruses are in development; learning which ones are more common in Alberta children will help researchers better focus their efforts.

The researchers are recruiting patients through pediatric emergency departments and Health Link. More information can be found on the study’s website.