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BackgroundThe diagnosis of non-malarial aetiologies, which now represent the majority of febrile illnesses, has remained problematic in settings with limited laboratory capacity. We aimed to describe common aetiologies of acute febrile illness among children in a setting where malaria transmission has declined.MethodsA prospective cross-sectional study was conducted among children aged at least 2 months and under 13 years presenting with fever (temperature of ≥37.5 °C or a history of fever in the past 48 h) to Hawassa Comprehensive Specialized Hospital, southern Ethiopia, from May 2018 through February 2019. Clinical and demographic data were gathered for consecutive participants, and malaria microscopy, HIV testing, and blood and urine cultures were performed regardless of clinical presentation. Additionally, stool analyses (culture and rotavirus/adenovirus RDT) and throat swab for group A Streptococcus (GAS) and urine Streptococcus pneumoniae were performed by RDTs for children with specific conditions. The antimicrobial susceptibility of bacterial isolates was determined using disc diffusion method.ResultsDuring the study period 433 children were recruited, median age 20 months (range, 2 months - 12 years) and 178 (41.1%) female. Malaria was diagnosed in 14 (3.2%) of 431 children, and 3 (0.7%) had HIV infection. Bacteraemia or fungaemia was detected in 27 (6.4%) of 421 blood cultures, with Staphylococcus aureus isolated in 16 (3.8%). Urinary tract infections (UTIs) were detected in 74 (18.4%) of 402, with Escherichia coli isolated in 37 (9.2%). Among 56 children whose stool specimens were tested, 14 (25%) were positive for rotavirus, 1 (1.8%) for Salmonella Paratyphi A, and 1 (1.8%) for Shigella dysenteriae. Among those with respiratory symptoms, a throat swab test for GAS and urine test for S. pneumoniae were positive in 28 (15.8%) of 177 and 31 (17.0%) of 182, respectively. No test was positive for a pathogen in 266 (61.4%) of 433 participants. Bacterial isolates were frequently resistant to ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, and amoxicillin and clavulanic acid.ConclusionOur results showed low proportions of malaria and bacteraemia among febrile children. In contrast, the frequent detection of UTI emphasize the need to support enhanced diagnostic capacity to ensure appropriate antimicrobial intervention.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC infectious diseases

Publication Date





Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


Humans, Plasmodium, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, HIV, Bacteremia, Escherichia coli Infections, Staphylococcal Infections, Urinary Tract Infections, HIV Infections, Malaria, Fever, Diagnostic Tests, Routine, Prospective Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Child, Child, Preschool, Infant, Ethiopia, Female, Male, Tertiary Care Centers