Microsporidiosis: not just in AIDS patients

Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2011 Oct;24(5):490-5. doi: 10.1097/QCO.0b013e32834aa152.


Purpose of review: Microsporidia have emerged as causes of opportunistic infections associated with diarrhea and wasting in AIDS patients. This review describes recent reports of microsporidiosis in HIV-infected individuals and the growing awareness of microsporidiosis in non-HIV-infected populations.

Recent findings: Microsporidia were only rarely recognized as causes of disease in humans until the AIDS pandemic. Implementation of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) to curtail HIV replication and restore immune status drastically reduced the occurrence of opportunistic infections, including those due to microsporidia, in HIV-infected individuals. In developing countries where cART is not always accessible, microsporidiosis continues to be problematic. Improvement of diagnostic methods over the previous 25 years led to identification of several new species of microsporidia, many of which disseminate from enteric to systemic sites of infection and contribute to some unexpected lesions. Among non-HIV-infected but immune-suppressed individuals, microsporidia have infected organ transplant recipients, children, the elderly, and patients with malignant disease and diabetes. In otherwise healthy immune-competent HIV seronegative populations, self-limiting diarrhea occurred in travelers and as a result of a foodborne outbreak associated with contaminated cucumbers. Keratitis due to microsporidiosis has become problematic and a recent longitudinal evaluation demonstrated that non-HIV-infected individuals seropositive for microsporidia who had no clinical signs continued to intermittently shed organisms in feces and urine.

Summary: Greater awareness and implementation of better diagnostic methods are demonstrating that microsporidia contribute to a wide range of clinical syndromes in HIV-infected and non-HIV-infected people. As such, microsporidia should be considered in differential diagnoses if no other cause can be defined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / microbiology*
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Microsporidiosis / diagnosis
  • Microsporidiosis / epidemiology*
  • Microsporidiosis / therapy


  • Antiprotozoal Agents