Background: Cryptosporidium is among the most common causes of severe diarrhea in African children 0-23 months old. It is associated with excess mortality, stunting and malnutrition. The most common manifestation of cryptosporidium is intestinal diarrheal disease. However, respiratory cryptosporidiosis has been documented in up to a third of children presenting with diarrhea. It is unclear whether respiratory involvement is a transient phenomenon or a reservoir for gastrointestinal (GI) disease. This study aims to evaluate the role of respiratory cryptosporidiosis in pediatric diarrheal disease.
Methods: This is a prospective, observational study conducted at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi. Young children aged 2-24 months hospitalized with diarrhea will be enrolled. Enrolled children will have induced sputum, nasopharyngeal (NP) swab and stool samples collected. All participants positive for cryptosporidium on sputum/NP/stool PCR testing will be followed up fortnightly after discharge from the hospital up to 8 weeks post-discharge. Sputum/NP/stool sample collection will be done at each visit. The primary outcomes will be presence of Cryptosporidium spp. in sputum/NP/stool. The secondary outcome will be presence of respiratory and GI symptoms, mortality and stunting. Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Malawi College of Medicine Research Ethics Committee (COMREC) and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) research ethics committee.
Discussion: The study began recruitment activities at QECH in February 2019. The protocol allows for expansion of recruitment to secondary sites within Blantyre and Chikwawa districts in the event that targets are not met at QECH. Study recruitment is expected to continue until early 2020.
Keywords: Children; Cryptosporidiosis; Cryptosporidium spp.; Gastrointestinal disease; Prospective study; Respiratory infection.