Intestinal protozoa and epithelial cell kinetics, structure and function

Parasitol Today. 1990 Dec;6(12):375-80. doi: 10.1016/0169-4758(90)90145-t.


Intestinal protozoa are not only common enteric pathogens in the tropics but also the high incidence of infection among immunocompromised patients in northern countries has evoked an increased interest in these parasites. Although enteric protozoa are a major cause of diarrhea and malabsorption in humans and other animals, the pathophysiology of gut disturbances caused by them remains poorly understood. Clinical signs related to enteric protozoan disease commonly involve malabsorption, diarrhea, weight loss or retarded weight gain and anorexua. Since these infections are most prevalent and most severe in the young, this may translate into considerable illness among children and significant loss to the agricultural economy where domestic animals are prone to infection. In this review we describe the effects of intestinal protozoan diseases on the structure, kinetics and function of absorptive intestinal cells and other epithelial cells, and correlate morphological injury with physiological alterations in the parasitized gut. Some of the interactions between immune responses and pathophysiology will be discussed, but in-depth discussion of intestinal immunity has recently been undertaken by other authors.