Microsporidiosis

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Microsporidiosis facts

  • Microsporidiosis is a disease that is caused by small parasites called microsporidia.
  • Generally, microsporidia do not cause disease in healthy people but rather in people with immune system deficiency.
  • Microsporidiosis can cause chronic diarrhea, kidney disease, and infection of the sinuses and eyes.
  • Diagnosing microsporidiosis requires laboratory testing.
  • Treatment of microsporidiosis requires medications and supportive care.

What is microsporidiosis? What causes the disease?

Microsporidiosis is a disease caused by infection with microscopic organisms called microsporidia. Microsporidia are eukaryotic parasites that must live within other host cells in which they can produce infective spores. These spores cause microsporidiosis, a disease which is primarily seen in individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Microsporidiosis can cause infection of the intestine, lung, kidney, brain, sinuses, muscles, and eyes. Although there are over 1,200 species of microsporidia, the most prevalent pathogens (disease-causing agents) in humans include Enterocytozoon bieneusi, Encephalitozoon cuniculi, and Encephalitozoon intestinalis.

How are microsporidia transmitted?

Microsporidia spores are released from the stool and urine of infected animals. A number of animals, including insects, birds, and mammals, can serve as reservoirs of infection for microsporidia. These spores are then consumed or inhaled by humans.

Once within a cell, the microsporidia develop and multiply, producing more spores. The infective spores are then released when the cell expands and bursts.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/15/2014

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