The importance of gastrointestinal pathogen research

Infectious gastroenteritis is a disease in which the small and/or large intestines become severely inflamed. The disease manifests mainly with diarrhea and vomiting. Diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration, while vomiting can lead to a loss of bicarbonate. Other possible complications include muscle cramps, kidney damage, and diminished urine. Depending on the pathogen causing the infection, the release of toxins can lead to secretory diarrhea, while others cause an invasive, inflammatory diarrhea.

Many pathogens that cause infectious gastroenteritis live in the intestines of animals that are later used for food. Other pathogens can live in water, and some can survive sitting in household surfaces like kitchen counters. This means that most people are under constant risk of contracting infectious gastroenteritis. In 2022, a reported outbreak of Norovirus—one of the leading causes of infectious gastroenteritis—was linked to raw oysters harvested in the state of Texas. The outbreak left over 200 people ill with infectious gastroenteritis.*

Gastrointestinal pathogen research enables laboratories to further understand the overall behavior of the pathogens that cause the disease. Given the many causes and quickness of spread of infectious gastroenteritis, it is important for laboratories to build their workflows with highly sensitive assays that can detect and differentiate between multiple pathogenic targets in the same stool sample.

Infographic: Infectious gastroenteritis

This comprehensive infographic provides an overview of the causes of infectious gastroenteritis, how it spreads, its treatment, and testing technology.

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Gastrointestinal infections infographic

Benefits of molecular stool testing


Real-time PCR technology has significant advantages over other methods for identifying human pathogens. Traditional methods like culturing, immunodiagnostics, and microscopy can be inaccurate, subjective, or prone to contamination and often require repeat testing or reflex testing. Fastidious microorganisms often cannot be grown or detected using traditional methods, and long sample processing times can delay time-to-results. Molecular tests for relevant pathogens may be unavailable or lack flexibility.



Pathogens that cause gastroenteritis

Bacteria icon


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Shigella / EIECNorovirus GICryptosporidium
SalmonellaNorovirus GIIE. histolytica
CampylobacterRotavirus AGiardia lamblia
Yersinia sppSapovirus
Vibrio sppSapovirus GV
Plesiomonas shigelloides
E. coli

Testing methods


Petri dish showing various clusters of bacterial cultures


A sample is sent to a lab where experts encourage organisms in the sample to multiply. Then they examine the dish to identify the pathogen.

An image of a COVID-19 rapid antigen test and nasal swab

Antigen (Rapid)

Sample collection swabs are agitated in a pre-mixed solution and tested on a paper strip to return results within half an hour.

Scientist performing molecular PCR testing in a laboratory

Molecular (PCR)

Genetic material from samples collected on swabs is amplified to detect genetic traces of a specific organism, even in early stages of infection.

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