Cryptosporidiosis

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Who is most at risk for getting seriously ill with cryptosporidiosis?

If you have a severely weakened immune system, talk to your health care provider for additional guidance.

Although Crypto can infect all people, some groups are likely to develop more serious illness.

  • Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to the dehydration resulting from diarrhea and should drink plenty of fluids while ill.
  • If you have a severely weakened immune system, you are at risk for more serious disease. Your 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.

What should I do if I think I may have cryptosporidiosis?

If you suspect that you have cryptosporidiosis, see your health care provider.

How is a cryptosporidiosis diagnosed?

Your health care provider will ask you to submit stool samples to see if you are infected. Because testing for Crypto can be difficult, you may be asked to submit several stool specimens over several days. Tests for Crypto are not routinely done in most laboratories. Therefore, your health care provider should specifically request testing for the parasite.

What is the treatment for cryptosporidiosis?

Nitazoxanide has been FDA-approved for treatment of diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium in people with healthy immune systems and is available by prescription. Consult with your health care provider for more information. Most people who have healthy immune systems will recover without treatment. Diarrhea can be managed by drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to dehydration. Rapid loss of fluids from diarrhea may be especially life threatening to babies. Therefore, parents should talk to their health care provider about fluid replacement therapy options for infants. Anti-diarrheal medicine may help slow down diarrhea, but a health care provider should be consulted before such medicine is taken.

People who are in poor health or who have weakened immune systems are at higher risk for more severe and more prolonged illness. The effectiveness of nitazoxanide in immunosuppressed individuals is unclear. HIV-positive individuals who suspect they have Crypto should contact their health care provider. For persons with AIDS, anti-retroviral therapy that improves immune status will also decrease or eliminate symptoms of Crypto. However, even if symptoms disappear, cryptosporidiosis is often not curable and the symptoms may return if the immune status worsens.

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