Cryptosporidiosis in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome: a study of 15 autopsy cases

Hum Pathol. 1991 Dec;22(12):1215-24. doi: 10.1016/0046-8177(91)90103-v.


The pathologic changes associated with human cryptosporidiosis have not been well characterized. In this report, 15 cases of cryptosporidiosis in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients are described. Organisms were found in autopsy tissue specimens in 13 cases, and only in antemortem stool samples in two. Gastrointestinal/hepatobiliary distribution of organisms was as follows: small intestine (13 cases), extrahepatic bile ducts (eight), intrahepatic bile ducts (seven), large intestine (six), pancreas (five), stomach (three), and esophagus (one). At all sites, infection was usually associated with nonspecific reactive epithelial changes, architectural abnormalities such as villous flattening in the small intestine, and interstitial edema with mixed inflammatory cell infiltrates. Presence of organisms and associated mucosal injury were patchy and of variable severity in the intestine. In the biliary tract, injury was commonly diffuse and severe. Pancreatic duct injury was generally mild and often limited to hyperplastic squamous metaplasia. In late-stage acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients with cryptosporidiosis, widespread infection in the gastrointestinal and biliary systems by this coccidian was more common and severe than previously suggested. Although the mechanisms have yet to be determined, infection usually is accompanied by pathologic changes that may be causally related to pathophysiologic abnormalities, such as diarrhea and malabsorption, and may account for other clinical manifestations of pancreatitis, cholangitis, and obstructive cholestasis.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autopsy
  • Cryptosporidiosis / complications*
  • Cryptosporidiosis / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Opportunistic Infections / complications*
  • Opportunistic Infections / pathology