Pathophysiology of enteric infections with Giardia duodenalius

Parasite. 2008 Sep;15(3):261-5. doi: 10.1051/parasite/2008153261.


Giardia is the most prevalent human intestinal parasitic protist in the world, and one of the most common parasite of companion animals and young livestock. Giardia is a major cause of diarrhea in children and in travelers. The host-microbial interactions that govern the outcome of infection remain incompletely understood. Findings available to date indicate that the infection causes diarrhea via a combination of intestinal malabsorption and hypersecretion. Malabsorption and maldigestion mainly result from a diffuse shortening of epithelial microvilli. This enterocytic injury is mediated by activated host T lymphocytes. Pathophysiological activation of lymphocytes is secondary to Giardia-induced disruption of epithelial tight junctions, which in turn increases intestinal permeability. Loss of epithelial barrier function is a result of Giardia-induced enterocyte apoptosis. Recent findings suggest that these effects may facilitate the development of chronic enteric disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and allergies, via mechanisms that remain poorly understood. A newly discovered SGLT-1 glucose uptake-mediated host cytoprotective mechanism may represent an effective modulator of the epithelial apoptosis induced by this parasite, and, possibly, by other enteropathogens. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of giardiasis will shed light on new potential therapeutic targets.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Giardia / pathogenicity
  • Giardia / physiology*
  • Giardiasis / metabolism
  • Giardiasis / parasitology*
  • Giardiasis / veterinary
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / parasitology*
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism
  • Intestine, Small / parasitology*