BACKGROUND: The aim of the study was to describe the etiology of enteropathogenic agents over a four-year period (1992-1995) in a University Hospital in Barcelona. METHODS: We studied 12793 stool samples, 4519 were obtained from patients under 15 years and 8274 were obtained from patients over 14 years. The specimens were examined for bacteriological, parasitological and virological enteropathogens. RESULTS: In 3380 specimens of 12793 stool samples studied were identified an enteropathogen (26.4%). Polymicrobial associations were observed in the 6.8% of the cases. Pathogens were identified in 45% of children samples and 16.3% of adults samples. The etiological enteritis agents more frequently detected in the paediatric patients were Campylobacter (13.5%), rotavirus (11.3%) and Salmonella (10.2%); and Salmonella (4.9%), Campylobacter (3.1%) and Giardia intestinalis (2.1%) in adults. Cryptosporidium (13.5%) was the most frequent cause of gastrointestinal tract infections in HIV-infected subjects. In the children with stools positives, the presence of red and white blood cells were more frequent than the adults with stools positives (73% versus 26.6%). CONCLUSIONS: The enteropathogenic agents such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Giardia were the most frequent cause of gastroenteritis in our environment. In the children, rotavirus infections predominated during the cold months. The most frequent cause of gastroenteritis in HIV-infected patients was Cryptosporidium followed by Campylobacter.