Cryptosporidiosis is an infection of the gut (small intestine) caused by microbes—parasites called Cryptosporidium (Crypto). Its most common symptoms include:
- Watery diarrhea (most common)
- Abdominal cramps
- Dehydration (pale and dry skin, dry tongue, and weakness)
- Weight loss
Some people who get infected with Crypto might exhibit no symptoms at all.
People begin experiencing the symptoms of cryptosporidiosis generally after 2-10 days (average seven days) after becoming infected with Crypto.
Symptoms usually stay for about one to two weeks (might take four or more weeks in some) for people with strong immunity. They can disappear and come back again to stay for up to a month.
What causes cryptosporidiosis?
Cryptosporidiosis is caused by Cryptosporidium (Crypto), which is most commonly found in water, food, and soil or on surfaces that have been contaminated with feces of humans or animals infected with the parasite. The parasite is found in all regions in the United States.
After getting into the body, Crypto goes on to stay in the gut of infected humans or animals. An infected body sheds Crypto parasites in their feces. Swallowing even 10 Crypto germs can cause the infection.
How does cryptosporidiosis spread?
Crypto can be spread by
- Accidentally swallowing the water in swimming pools, lakes, and rivers contaminated with Crypto.
- Swallowing beverages contaminated with poop from infected humans or animals.
- Eating undercooked food that gets contaminated with Crypto.
- Drinking unpasteurized/raw apple cider or milk contaminated with Crypto.
- Touching the mouth with hands contaminated with Crypto.
- Touching diapers and playing toys of a child infected with Crypto.
- Exposure to poop from an infected person through oral–anal sex.
Who is at risk of cryptosporidiosis?
Individuals who are at higher risk for cryptosporidiosis include
- Children who attend childcare centers
- Childcare workers
- Parents of infected children
- Older adults
- International travelers
- Backpackers and campers who drink untreated water
- People who drink from untreated water sources
- Swimmers who accidentally swallow untreated water while swimming
- People who handle infected calves and sheep
- People who have anal sex with infected persons
Cryptosporidiosis can become serious and life-threatening in a certain set of population groups. These include:
- Pregnant women
- People with a severely weakened immune system such as those
How is cryptosporidiosis diagnosed?
The disease is diagnosed by laboratory testing of stool samples specifically for the Crypto microbe. For this, the patient has to give three samples on three different days.
What is the treatment for cryptosporidiosis?
Treatment for cryptosporidiosis is usually simple and easy in people with a good immunity system. It involves
- Drinking plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
- Maintaining a nutritious diet.
- Taking over-the-counter medications that reduce the episodes of diarrhea.
- Taking prescription drugs such as nitazoxanide.
The infected patient should also avoid the following things that cause further dehydration:
Pregnant ladies, children, and patients with a weakened immune system may need aggressive therapy of intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent dehydration.
How to prevent cryptosporidiosis?
Taking simple precautions can help people prevent cryptosporidiosis. Some of these include:
- Practicing good hygiene by washing hands
- Sanitizing or cleaning toys of infected kids in the family
- Taking care not to swallow the water while swimming in lakes, rivers, and swimming pools
- Staying away from drinking untreated water
- Avoiding food that might be contaminated
- Avoiding uncooked food when traveling in countries with unsafe food supply
- Practicing safer sex
Cryptosporidiosis. Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/215490-overview
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