What is Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis derives its name from tiny cryptosporidium parasites which are responsible for this type of illness. Cryptosporidium parasites travel into the patients’ body and get settled in small intestine where they borrow small holes into the walls. Then they (cryptosporidia) are thrown out of the body through feces.

Cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis is associated with symptoms of watery diarrhea which can persist for one or two weeks. It can be life threatening for the individuals with weak immune system and needs prompt treatment.

Cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis can be prevented by maintaining well hygienic conditions and ensuring that you do not swallow water from lakes, streams, pools etc...

What is Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis?

How does Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis Spread?

Cryptosporidium affects the intestines of human beings and are released in the external environment through stool consisting of millions of crypto germs. Through stools, Cryptosporidium can spread and contaminate soil, water and food. These parasites enter the body of an individual with the intake of this water or food contaminated with parasites. Cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis does not spread by means of any contact to blood of infected person.

Crypto parasites can be spread:

  • By swallowing any part of soil or food item contaminated by crypto parasites.
  • Intake of water contaminated with crypto from river, pools, ponds etc, by mistake. Often recreational water contains crypto parasites due to contact with sewage.
  • By means of beverages contaminated by crypto parasites.
  • Raw vegetables can contain crypto parasites on the surface. Thus wash all raw vegetable with clean water before eating.
  • Crypto parasites can also enter your body through hands. We can sometimes touch certain objects or places like diaper pails, bathroom fixtures etc... which are contaminated with crypto and get your hands contaminated.
  • Sexual contact involving exposure to human feces can also lead to cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.

Causes of Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis is caused by the ingestion of crypto parasite accidently. Some of the strains of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis are more threatening. Once these parasites enter the body, they bore into the walls of small intestine and starts to multiply rapidly. Some portion of the parasites is also shed through the feces.

Some of the common causes of which lead to cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis are:

  • Intake of water contaminated with cryptosporidium parasites.
  • Swimming in a pool or water body containing with water infected with cryptosporidium parasites can enter our body accidently through mouth and cause cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • Raw food contaminated with crypto parasite can cause cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis if eaten without cleaning.
  • Contaminated hands can also cause cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis coming in contact with mouth.
  • Pets and animals containing crypto parasites on surface can also cause infection when touched.

People with low immunity like those suffering with AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) are more at the risk of getting infected by cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.

Note: Many of the cases of diarrhea in human beings are caused by cryptosporidium parasites. It is extremely hard to remove crypto parasites during purification of water through chlorine or filters as it is resistant to chlorine based disinfectants. It possesses the strength to survive in tough conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis

Once the person is infected with cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis, the symptoms starts to appear by the end of first week. Common signs and symptoms of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis are:

  • Nausea.
  • Stomach cramps or pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Dehydration.
  • Watery diarrhea is a major symptom of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • Weight loss is also a symptom of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • Fever.

The infected person continues to show steady symptoms of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis for upto two weeks after which the symptoms completely disappear. If watery diarrhea persists of long duration, it is strongly recommended to seek medical treatment for cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.

The doctor is likely to ask one or more of the following questions to diagnose your condition of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.

  • How long you have been showing symptoms of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis?
  • What is the severity of symptoms?
  • Anything that seems like suppressing the symptoms?
  • Anything that seems to make the symptoms of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis worse?
  • When was the last time you went for a swim?
  • Have you been out of the country in the recent past?

How to Tackle the Situation of Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis Temporarily?

Keep your body well hydrated until to get assistance from your doctor.

How Long Does It Take For The Symptoms To Appear?

Symptoms of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis can start showing up as early as 2 days and can take upto 7 days in extreme cases after the parasite gets into your body.

How Long Will Symptoms of Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis Last?

In case of an individual with good immune system, the symptoms of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis can remain for 2 weeks and then appear sporadically where they will seem to come and go in irregular manner.

Can Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis Spread from the Infected Person to Other Members in the Family or Friends?

Cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis is contagious and thus it is necessary to take proper steps to prevent infection from spreading as given below:

  • It is necessary to wash hands using soap and water before taking meals and every time you go to toilet or change diapers. It is important to note that chlorinated water of pools is insufficient to kill crypto parasites as they are resistant to chlorine based disinfectants.
  • It is recommended to avoid swimming in lakes, rivers, ponds and other water bodies for atleast 2 weeks after the symptoms of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis stops to appear to prevent water from getting contaminated with crypto parasites. The mere act of swimming is sufficient to cause contamination of water. The contaminated water carries the parasites to recreational water parks where they infect other people.
  • Sexual acts involving oral exposure to stool must be avoided.
  • It is recommended to keep the individuals with weak immunity out of the reach from the person infected with cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • Children infected with diarrhea must be isolated from the other children to avoid cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis from spreading.

Risk Factors for Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis

Following are some of the risk factors that can make an individual more prone to cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis:

  • Individuals who come frequently in contact with contaminated water are at risk with cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • Caretakers of children who wear diapers who are involved with changing diapers.
  • Parents of the children infected with cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • People engaged in taking care of children.
  • People who need to handle animals and pets.
  • Individuals engaged in sexual acts involving oral-to-anal activity are at risk with cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • Frequent travelers who need to go out of the country often to developing countries.
  • People who for hiking and attend camps drinking untreated and contaminated water without any filtration.
  • People who swim often in rivers, lakes and ponds with water infected from cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • People who do not have access to clean drinking water and are forced to drink contaminated water from shallow wells.

Contaminated water is one of the main reasons for cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis. There have been many cases of community wide outbreaks of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis where contaminated drinking water from municipal corporation have been guilty. Contaminated water includes water which is not properly filtered or treated or the water which is coming from contaminated recreational water bodies like rivers, lakes, ponds, streams etc...

Complications in Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis may lead to following complications:

  • Lack of nutrients in the body due to the inability of walls of small intestine to absorb nutrients from the absorbed food is a possible complication of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis.
  • Another complication of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis is extreme dehydrahation.
  • Significant reduction is weight of the body.
  • Cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis may also lead to inflammation in the passage which connects intestine to liver and gallbladder known as bile duct.
  • It may also cause inflammation in liver, pancreas and gallbladder.

In general, cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis is not life threatening. However, in case of individuals with weak immune system due to surgery or transplant it can lead to serious complications.

Tests to Diagnose Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis

Following tests are recommended for diagnosis of cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis:

  • Acid-staining Test to Diagnose Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis: It is a simple test in which generally the stool sample is analyzed under the microscope by the expert to look for presence of cryptosporidium parasite. In extreme cases, a small tissue sample obtained from intestine called as biopsy is used for analysis.
  • Stool Culture Test for Diagnosis of Cryptosporidium Infection or Cryptosporidiosis: This test for diagnosing the infection is recommended to find out presence of any bacteria in the stool that can cause similar types of symptoms. Although It cannot find out the presence of cryptosporidium parasite but helps in ruling out the chances of other bacterial pathogens.
  • Other tests: Once it is ensured that you are having cryptosporidium infection, doctor recommends some other tests to find out the development of complications affecting organs like liver, gallbladder etc...

For the patients of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) diagnosed with cryptosporidium infection or cryptosporidiosis, additional test to determine the T cell count is recommended to find the chances of complications. If the T cell count comes out to be less than 100 cells per microliter, there is a healthy chance of having complications.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: September 12, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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