Blastocystis hominis revisited

Clin Microbiol Rev. 1996 Oct;9(4):563-84. doi: 10.1128/CMR.9.4.563.


Blastocystis hominis is a unicellular organism found commonly in the intestinal tract of humans and many other animals. Very little is known of the basic biology of the organism, and controversy surrounds its taxonomy and pathogenicity. There morphological forms (vacuolar, granular, and ameboid) have been recognized, but recent studies have revealed several additional forms (cyst, avacuolar, and multivacuolar). The biochemistry of the organism has not been studied to any extent, and organelles and structures of unknown function and composition are present in the cells. Several life cycles have been proposed but not experimentally validated. The form used for transmission has not been defined. Infections with the organism are worldwide and appear in both immunocompetent and immunodeficient individuals. Symptoms generally attributed to B. hominis infection are nonspecific, and the need for treatment is debated. If treatment appears warranted, metronidazole is suggested as the drug of choice, although failures of this drug in eradicating the organism have been reported. Infection is diagnosed by light microscopic examination of stained smears or wet mounts of fecal material. Most laboratories identify B. hominis by observing the vacuolar form, although morphological studies indicate that other forms, such as the cyst form and multivacuolar form, also should be sought for diagnosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blastocystis Infections / diagnosis
  • Blastocystis Infections / drug therapy
  • Blastocystis Infections / epidemiology
  • Blastocystis Infections / etiology*
  • Blastocystis hominis / cytology
  • Blastocystis hominis / growth & development
  • Blastocystis hominis / metabolism
  • Blastocystis hominis / pathogenicity*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Prevalence


  • Antiprotozoal Agents