Cryptosporidium enteritis is an infection of the small intestine with the parasite Cryptosporidium that causes diarrhea.
Cryptosporidium has recently been recognized as a worldwide cause of diarrhea in all age groups. Its major impact has been among those with a weakened immune system, including:
In these groups, this infection is not just bothersome, but it also can lead to severe and life-threatening loss of muscle and body mass (wasting) and malnutrition.
The major risk factor is swallowing water contaminated with feces. Those at higher risk include:
Some outbreaks have been very large.
Outbreaks are linked to:
There are several treatments for cryptosporidium enteritis.
Drugs such as nitazoxanide have been used in children and adults. Other drugs that are sometimes used include:
However, these drugs often only help for a little while. It is common for the infection to return.
The best approach is to improve immune function in people who have a weakened immune system. This can be done by using highly active antiviral therapy in people with AIDS. It can lead to a complete remission of cryptosporidium enteritis.
In healthy people, the infection will clear up, but it can last up to a month. In people who are immunosuppressed, long-term diarrhea may cause weight loss and malnutrition.
Notify your health care provider if you develop watery diarrhea that does not go away within a few days, especially if you have a suppressed immune system.
Proper sanitation and hygiene, including handwashing, are important measures for preventing this illness.
Certain water filters can also reduce risk by filtering out the Cryptosporidium eggs. However, the pores of the filter must be smaller than 1 micron to be effective. If you are immunosuppressed, ask your doctor if you need to boil your water.
Lima AAM, Guerrant RL. Cryptosporidiosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 358.
White AC Jr. Cryptosporidium species. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 283.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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