Cryptosporidiosis in perspective

Adv Parasitol. 1988:27:63-129. doi: 10.1016/s0065-308x(08)60353-x.


In this review I have examined the vast literature which has accumulated on Cryptosporidium, particularly in the past 3 years, in an attempt to highlight areas in which progress has been made in relation to the organism and the disease, and to indicate areas in which knowledge is still lacking. Since 1982, a global effort by scientists and clinicians has been directed towards determining the nature of the disease in humans and the relative contribution of cryptosporidiosis to gastroenteritis. From published data, the incidence of diarrhoea is 1-5% in most developed countries, and 4-7% in less developed countries, when measured throughout the year and in all age groups. The frequency of cryptosporidiosis is highest in children aged between 6 months and 3 years, and in particular locations (e.g., day-care centres) and at particular times of the year. Although susceptibility to infection is life-long, one suspects that the lower prevalence among older children and adults is due to immunity acquired from frequent exposure. Other important factors contributing to higher prevalence are the season--it is more frequent in a wet, warm climate--association with travel to particular destinations, poor hygiene, intimate contact with certain animals, and congregation of large numbers of young previously unexposed children in day-care centres. The association between cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis presumably results from the existence of a common source of infection. The immune status of the host appears to be a major determinant of whether the infection is self-limiting or persistent. It is clear that both branches of the immune system are required for complete recovery, since T-lymphocyte dysfunction or hypogammaglobulinaemia can both lead to persistent illness. Chronic diarrhoea and malabsorption attributed to cryptosporidiosis also occur in the absence of evidence of immune defect. The importance of respiratory tract infection in humans, other than in the terminal stages of chronic illness, requires investigation. The infection has now been identified in all classes of vertebrates; it has been observed in all domestic animals including pets, and a wide range of wildlife including birds. Cryptosporidiosis seems to cause diarrhoea in young ruminants, less frequently in pets. In birds the parasite has been observed in the gastrointestinal tract, without ill effect, and in the respiratory tract, in which clinical symptoms of variable severity have been described. The mucosal response of the gastrointestinal tract to infection appears to vary among mammals and may be the key to the variable clinical manifestations observed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Coccidia / growth & development*
  • Cryptosporidiosis* / complications
  • Cryptosporidiosis* / diagnosis
  • Cryptosporidiosis* / epidemiology
  • Cryptosporidiosis* / parasitology
  • Cryptosporidiosis* / transmission
  • Cryptosporidium / growth & development*
  • Cryptosporidium / ultrastructure
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology