Natural and experimental infection of immunocompromised rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) with the microsporidian Enterocytozoon bieneusi genotype D

Microbes Infect. 2004 Sep;6(11):996-1002. doi: 10.1016/j.micinf.2004.05.012.


Microsporidia are obligate intracellular parasites that cause opportunistic infections in AIDS and other immunocompromised patients. Eight simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected rhesus macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were inoculated orally with Enterocytozoon bieneusi spores isolated from intestinal lavage fluid of an AIDS patient (genotype D) to study the natural history of this infection. Four monkeys were already naturally infected with E. bieneusi (also genotype D), and were included to determine if a second inoculum affected the course of illness. Spore shedding was detected in feces of all eight monkeys within the first week of experimental infection. Five monkeys died within 3.5 months of experimental E. bieneusi inoculation. Three of these five monkeys began the study with CD4+CD29+ T cell levels well below 20% of total T lymphocytes. Deaths were due to a variety of AIDS-related manifestations. Microsporidia did not appear to directly contribute to mortality but may have contributed to morbidity. At necropsy, microsporidia were found in bile and tissue sections of the gallbladder but not in the gut, kidneys, or liver. The percent CD4+CD29+ levels of the last three monkeys remained near the level observed at the time of inoculation. These monkeys lived more than 2 years after the end of the study and continued to shed spores. This study corroborates previous reports that E. bieneusi can be reliably transmitted to SIV-infected rhesus monkeys but indicates that the use of SIV-infected monkeys for the study of microsporidiosis is complicated by the confounding effect of other opportunistic or AIDS-related infections.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections* / immunology
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections* / parasitology
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections* / pathology
  • Animals
  • CD4 Antigens / analysis
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cause of Death
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Enterocytozoon* / isolation & purification
  • Feces / parasitology
  • Female
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Integrin beta1 / analysis
  • Intestines / parasitology
  • Macaca mulatta*
  • Male
  • Microsporidiosis* / immunology
  • Microsporidiosis* / parasitology
  • Microsporidiosis* / pathology
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Spores, Protozoan / isolation & purification
  • Survival Rate
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets


  • CD4 Antigens
  • Integrin beta1