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Infectious diseases in German military personnel after predominantly tropical deployments: a retrospective assessment over 13 years


Objectives Military deployments to the tropics are associated with specific infection risks. To add to the available epidemiological information, infectious disease risks in German military personnel returning from predominantly tropical deployments were assessed.

Methods Since 2006, German soldiers returning from predominantly tropical deployments have been offered the opportunity of returnee screenings at the Department of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases of the Bundeswehr Hospital Hamburg. Case files and diagnostic results recorded between 2006 and 2018 were retrospectively assessed to identify deployment-associated infectious disease risks.

Results Along with high enteric colonisation rates with apathogenic protozoa and resistant Enterobacteriaceae, direct or indirect proof of infections among the 764 assessed cases comprised Plasmodium spp (n=37), Giardia duodenalis (n=21), Schistosoma spp (n=14), Yersinia enterocolitica (n=5), Strongyloides stercoralis (n=3), Campylobacter jejuni (n=1), Leishmania spp (n=1) and Salmonella enterica (n=1), as well as latent infections with Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (n=8). The infections were mainly imported from the African region and Eastern Mediterranean region and high proportions of cases lacked typical symptoms. Reported side effect rates of antimalarial chemoprophylaxis for mefloquine (n=121), atovaquone/proguanil (n=49) and doxycycline (n=6) were 36.3%, 19.3% and 11.8%, respectively, while non-compliance rates were 12.9%, 13.0% and 5.9%, respectively.

Conclusions Considerable rates of infections with sometimes atypical or absent symptoms confirm a need for returnee screenings after tropical deployments. High reported side effect rates for mefloquine support its replacement by atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline for antimalarial chemoprophylaxis.

  • epidemiology
  • gastrointestinal infections
  • infectious diseases
  • diagnostic microbiology
  • molecular diagnostics
  • tropical medicine

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