Morphologic and staining characteristics of a cyanobacterium-like organism associated with diarrhea

J Infect Dis. 1991 Jul;164(1):199-202. doi: 10.1093/infdis/164.1.199.


A spherical organism 9-10 microns in diameter, seen in three outbreaks of diarrhea in Southeast Asia and the United States during the past 2 years, bore characteristics of a cyanobacterium when observed in formalin-preserved stool specimens and by electron microscopy. Organisms in freshly passed stool specimens showed an internal morula of lipid-containing globules. In fresh water, the morula divided into two sausage-shaped structures resembling the sporocysts of an isosporid coccidian. After 7 months, the organisms had not developed the crescentic sporozoites seen in the Coccidia but had begun to multiply slowly in culture. It was impossible to stain the internal structures of the organisms because the outer cyst wall ruptured during desiccation, releasing the contents of the cysts. The organisms were readily identified by their intense blue autofluorescence under UV light, but they were also recognizable by bright-field microscopy and by a modified acid-fast stain. Almost all infected persons suffered intermittent diarrhea for 2-3 weeks and many emphasized a feeling of intense fatigue during the course of their illness.

MeSH terms

  • Asia, Southeastern / epidemiology
  • Cyanobacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Cyanobacteria / ultrastructure
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / microbiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Staining and Labeling
  • United States / epidemiology