In this age matched controlled study performed in Malatya, a city in east region of Turkey, Enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis (ETBF) was investigated in stool specimens obtained from children and adults with and without diarrhea. A nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method was used to detect the enterotoxin gene of B. fragilis in a total of 418 stool samples, including 221 samples from 117 children (aged 0-16 years) and 104 adults (aged > 16 years) with diarrhea, and 197 samples from 102 children and 95 adults as control group that was the same age group with those having diarrhea. ETBF was detected in 13 of 117 diarrheal children (11.1%) and 8 of 102 control children (7.8%) (P > 0.05). In children aged 1-5 years, the rate of ETBF was significantly higher in patients than in controls (25% versus 9.5%, respectively; P < 0.05). On the other hand ETBF was detected similar rates (2.2% and 2.4%, respectively) in children younger than 1 year in both patients and controls. ETBF positivity was not significantly difference between patient and control groups who were older than 5 years of age and adults. The frequency of ETBF in the controls was slightly higher in older persons than in younger ones; however, it was not significant. The rate of ETBF as the only enteropathogen in the patients with ETBF was significantly higher than in controls with ETBF (88% versus 39%, respectively; P < 0.02). We found that in east region of Turkey, the prevalence of ETBF was higher in the childhood diarrhea, particularly in aged 1-5. As the only enteropathogen, ETBF may play an important role in diarrheal diseases. Persons after 6 years old can be carrier for ETBF regardless diarrhea. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.