Microbiological screenings for infection control in unaccompanied minor refugees: the German Armed Forces Medical Service’s experience



Maa├čen W, Wiemer D, Frey C, Kreuzberg C, Tannich E, Hinz R, Wille A, Fritsch A, Hagen RM, Frickmann H.


Mil Med Res. 2017 Apr 21;4:13. doi: 10.1186/s40779-017-0123-8. 2017.


BACKGROUND: The German Military Medical Service contributed to the medical screening of unaccompanied minor refugees (UMRs) coming to Germany in 2014 and 2015. In this study, a broad range of diagnostic procedures was applied to identify microorganisms with clinical or public health significance. Previously, those tests had only been used to screen soldiers returning from tropical deployments. This instance is the first time the approach has been studied in a humanitarian context. METHODS: The offered screenings included blood cell counts, hepatitis B serology and microscopy of the stool to look for protozoa and worm eggs as well as PCR from stool samples targeting pathogenic bacteria, protozoa and helminths. If individuals refused certain assessments, their decision to do so was accepted. A total of 219 apparently healthy male UMRs coming from Afghanistan, Egypt, Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Ghana, Guinea, Iran, Algeria, Iraq, Benin, Gambia, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, and Palestine were assessed. All UMRs who were examined at the study department were included in the assessment. RESULTS: We detected decreasing frequencies of pathogens that included diarrhoea-associated bacteria [Campylobacter (C.) jejuni, enteropathogenic Escherichia (E.) coli (EPEC), enterotoxic E. coli (ETEC), enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC), enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC)/Shigella spp.), Giardia (G.) duodenalis, helminths (comprising Schistosoma spp., Hymenolepis (H.) nana, Strongyloides (S.) stercoralis] as well as hepatitis B virus. Pathogenic microorganisms dominated the samples by far. While G. duodenalis was detected in 11.4% of the assessed UMRs, the incidence of newly identified cases in the German population was 4.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that the applied in-house PCR screening systems, which have proven to be useful for screening military returnees from tropical deployments, can also be used for health assessment of immigrants from the respective sites. Apparently healthy UMRs may be enterically colonized with a broad variety of pathogenic and apathogenic microorganisms. Increased colonization rates, as shown for G. duodenalis, can pose a hygiene problem in centralized homes for asylum seekers.

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Link/DOI: 10.1186/s40779-017-0123-8