Pathology of symptomatic microsporidial (Encephalitozoon hellem) bronchiolitis in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome: a new respiratory pathogen diagnosed from lung biopsy, bronchoalveolar lavage, sputum, and tissue culture

Hum Pathol. 1993 Sep;24(9):937-43. doi: 10.1016/0046-8177(93)90106-q.


Encephalitozoon hellem is a recently described microsporidian associated with an expanding spectrum of clinical presentations in patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It is morphologically similar to Encephalitozoon cuniculi, a microsporidian infection of mammals and some avians, and their differentiation rests on biochemical and antigenic analyses. This report describes a patient previously diagnosed with keratoconjunctivitis due to E hellem who subsequently was found to have respiratory tract microsporidiosis by sputum cytology. He subsequently developed pulmonary symptoms and a left lower lobe interstitial infiltrate. A bronchoalveolar lavage and transbronchial biopsy revealed microsporidial bronchiolitis, and the etiologic agent was identified as E hellem using an immunofluorescent antibody technique. Lavage fluid was successfully cultured in monkey kidney cells, and cultivated E hellem organisms were studied using immunohistochemistry as well as scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The pathologic features of this newly described cause of protozoal bronchiolitis, the role of immunofluorescent antibody examination and in vitro tissue culture for species-specific diagnosis, and the significance of microsporidial pulmonary infections in AIDS patients are discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Bronchiolitis / complications*
  • Bronchiolitis / parasitology*
  • Bronchiolitis / pathology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / parasitology
  • Encephalitozoonosis / parasitology*
  • Encephalitozoonosis / pathology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microsporida / isolation & purification*
  • Staining and Labeling