Improved light-microscopical detection of microsporidia spores in stool and duodenal aspirates. The Enteric Opportunistic Infections Working Group

N Engl J Med. 1992 Jan 16;326(3):161-6. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199201163260304.


Background: The diagnosis of infection with Enterocytozoon bieneusi, a microsporidian organism that causes chronic diarrhea in patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), has depended on invasive procedures. We have developed a new method to detect microsporidia spores in feces and duodenal aspirates.

Methods: Stool was obtained from four HIV-infected patients with biopsy-confirmed intestinal microsporidiosis. Slides prepared from unconcentrated, formalin-fixed stool specimens were stained with a new chromotrope-based technique and examined by light microscopy. Methods of stool concentration were also compared. The technique was then evaluated by examining 215 specimens from 134 HIV-infected persons with or without diarrhea. In addition, duodenal aspirates from 10 patients with unexplained chronic diarrhea were examined by light microscopy after staining according to the new and the traditional techniques.

Results: E. bieneusi spores were found in all unconcentrated stool specimens from the four patients with microsporidiosis. The use of various methods of stool concentration did not improve the detection of microsporidia spores. In the prospective study, microsporidiosis was detected in samples from 6 of 27 patients with chronic diarrhea, but in none of those from 42 patients with acute diarrhea or 65 patients without diarrhea. The presence of microsporidia spores in stool specimens and duodenal aspirates allowed the successful prediction of the presence of microsporidia in small-bowel biopsy specimens from all four patients who subsequently underwent endoscopy.

Conclusions: E. bieneusi is an important cause of chronic diarrhea in HIV-infected persons. This new diagnostic technique serves as a practical, noninvasive means to detect microsporidia spores in stool specimens and is also applicable to the examination of duodenal aspirates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diarrhea / parasitology
  • Duodenum / parasitology*
  • Feces / parasitology*
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • Microscopy
  • Microsporida / isolation & purification*
  • Microsporidiosis / diagnosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spores / isolation & purification
  • Staining and Labeling