Cryptosporidiosis (Caused by Cryptosporidium parasite) – Symptoms, Risk factors and Prevention

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasites which causes Cryptosporidiosis. Cryptosporidium, that can live in the intestine of humans and animals and is passed in the stool of an infected person or animal. The parasite is commonly called crypto. Human cryptosporidiosis are caused by infection with apicomplexan and it mainly affects children. Human cryptosporidiosis is believed to causes a self-limited diarrheal illness in healthy individuals. It is also recognized as a cause of prolonged and persistent diarrhea in children and of severe, prolonged diarrhea in persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Cryptosporidiosis incubation period is between 1 to 12 days with an average of 7 days. Cryptosporidiosis is typically an acute, short-term infection, can be recurrent through reinfection in immunocompetent hosts, and become severe or life-threatening in immunocompromised individuals.

The crypto parasite is spread when an infected person or animal sheds Crypto parasites in the stool. You can become infected after accidentally swallowing the parasite. Cryptosporidium may be found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces from infected humans or animals. Crypto is not spread by contact with blood.

Life Cycle of Cryptosporidiosis

The virus cryptosporidium do not multiply outside the host. The virus can complete its life cycle within a single host, including its asexual (merogony) and sexual (sporogony) reproductive cycles. Infection is initiated by ingestion of oocysts, which are activated in the stomach and upper intestines to release 4 infective sporozoites. These motile sporozoites bind to the receptors on the surface of the intestinal epithelial cells and are ingested into a parasitophorous vacuole near the surface of the epithelial cell, separated from the cytoplasm by a dense layer.

Symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis

The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms include:

  • Stomach cramps or pain
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody diarrhoea.
  • Severe abdominal pain

Risk Factors of Cryptosporidiosis

Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to the dehydration resulting from diarrhea and should drink plenty of fluids while ill. Also, individuals with weakened immune system are at risk for more serious disease. Symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of persons with weakened immune systems include those with AIDS; cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs; and those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system.

Diagnosis of Cryptosporidiosis

The disease is diagnosed through stool assessment. Testing usually requires submission of several stool specimens over several days; tests for cryptosporidiosis are not routinely done in most laboratories so the results will require sending specimens out to a special lab.

Prevention of Cryptosporidiosis

Prevention of the disease is better and cheaper than treatment. The best way to prevent the disease is by preventing the ingestion of the Cryptosporidium parasite:

  • Washing your hands frequently and carefully with soap and scrubbing all surfaces that may come in contact with feces from humans or animals.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene.
  • Ensure that food and drinking water are safe for consumption. Do not expose them for contamination.


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