Cryptosporidium enteritis : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Cryptosporidiosis

Definition

Cryptosporidium enteritis is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the parasite cryptosporidium. The main symptom is diarrhea.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Cryptosporidium has recently been recognized as a worldwide cause of diarrhea in all age groups. Its major impact has been among those with weakened immune systems, including:

  • People who take medications to suppress their immune system
  • People with HIV or AIDS
  • Transplant recipients

In these groups, this diarrheal infection is not just bothersome. It also can lead to severe, and potentially life-threatening, loss of muscle and body mass (wasting) and malnutrition.

The major risk factor is swallowing water contaminated with fecal matter. Those at higher risk include:

  • Animal handlers
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People in close contact with infected individuals
  • Young children

Outbreaks have been linked to:

  • Drinking from contaminated public water supplies
  • Drinking unpasteurized cider
  • Swimming in contaminated pools and lakes

Pictures & Images

Cryptosporidium, organism

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite found in contaminated water. It has been increasingly recognized as the cause of outbreaks of diarrhea when water supplies become contaminated. In normal individuals, it is a self-limited disease. Among immunocompromised individuals with AIDS, cryptosporidium can cause severe diarrheal disease, gallbladder disease (cholecystitis), and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Digestive system organs

Digestive system organs

The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.


Review Date : 9/1/2008
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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