Cryptosporidium the leading cause of diarrhea

Cryptosporidium the leading cause of diarrhea

 Cryptosporidium-the leading cause of diarrhea

Cryptosporidiosis is a disease that is common nowadays worldwide. It is important to know the details of this disease, causes, and treatment for it. This article is based on all that Cryptosporidium the leading cause of diarrhea.

Cryptosporidium is basically a microscopic parasite that is the cause for diarrheal cryptosporidiosis that is now common worldwide. The parasite and disease now are commonly called “crypto”.


there are many species of the parasite cryptosporidium. It infects animals and some infect man. The parasite is covered in an outer shell that allows for greater protection from the harsh conditions in the outside world and also makes it tolerant of chlorine disinfection as it is found in water.

Lifecycle and Causal agent

Many species of Cryptosporidium exist that infect man and animals. Cryptosporidium Parvum and hominis are species of concern and cause disease in humans, Infections by C.felis, C.meleagridis, C.canis, and C.muris have also been reported.

Sporulated oocysts containing 4 sporozoites are excreted by the infected host in the feces and other routes such as respiratory possibly.

  1. Transmission occurs through contact with contaminated water mainly, food sources and infected feces of animals may serve as vehicles of transmission.
  2. Excystation occurs following ingestion. Sporozoites are released and undergo asexual multiplication in the GIT or respiratory tissues and then sexual multiplication occurs producing microgamonts (male) and macrogamonts (female).
  3. Upon Fertilization of microgametes, oocysts develop that sporulate in the infected host. Two different types of oocysts are produced, the thick-walled which are commonly excreted and the thin-walled that permit direct and immediate fecal-oral transmission

Cryptosporidium the leading cause of diarrhea


this parasite can be spread by many ways but the most common being drinking water. It is due to its extreme protection against chlorination that even the safest of drinking water is not safe for drinking if it has crypto and that is the major reason why this disease is worldwide now. It is the leading cause of waterborne disease among humans in the USA.

Infection sources

Crypto lives in the intestine of victim humans or animals. Shedding occurs at this level in stools in the form of active cryptosporidium parasite. Millions of crypto parasites can be released in a single bowel excretion. Shedding begins after the beginning of symptoms and can last for weeks after symptoms disappear (e.g diarrhea stop). A person can also be infected if they swallow the parasite accidentally because they are found in soil, food, water or surfaces contaminated with parasite containing faeces. It is not spread by blood as it is not found in the blood

Source of spread

  • Putting something in the mouth that is infected with the parasite
  • Swallowing recreational water (most common) infested with the parasite
  • Contaminated water with stools of infected man or animal
  • Eating uncooked food containing stools or active parasite, even vegetables

People with greater exposure to contaminated materials at greater risk

  • Children who attend childcare centers, including diaper-aged children
  • Parents of Infected children
  • People who deal with infected patients
  • International travelers
  • Backpackers, hikers, travelers, adventurers who drink unfiltered water
  • People who drink water from shallow dirty wells
  • People who handle cattle (infected)
  • People exposed to human feces through sexual contact

Contaminated water is the water that may not have been boiled or filtered properly, Even chlorination does not help as it is resistant to it. Several cases of cryptosporidiosis have been reported due to drinking municipal water infected with the parasite.

People with decreased immunity are at greater risk once infected i.e HIV patients, Taking immune suppressant drugs. Immunity strength differs from individual to individual.

Symptoms and Signs

Signs and symptoms of crypto appear generally 2 to 10 days after infection with the parasite. The most common symptom is watery diarrhea. Others include

  • Stomach pain and cramps
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Weightloss

Symptoms show many similarities to food poisoning and the disease actually is a type of food poisoning itself but requires different techniques to differentiate it as crypto.

Some people infected with the parasite have no symptoms at all. Symptoms usually last for 1 to 2 weeks in people with healthy active immune systems. Recurrence occurs occasionally after a short period of recovery just before the end of the illness. Symptoms may occur and recur for up to 30 days.

The small intestine is the most common site affected. Immunocompromised patients may possibly be affected at other sites of the digestive system and even the respiratory tract. The risk of developing severe disease differs in each individual on the degree of their immune suppression.


Cryptosporidiosis is diagnosed by examination of the stool of the victims. Its detection too is quite difficult so patient may be asked to submit multiple examples of stools overtime. The stool samples are then examined microscopically and different techniques are used for this examination

  • Acid-fast staining
  • Direct fluorescent antibody
  • Enzyme immunoassays for detection of Cryptosporidium sp. antigens.
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)(used at species level identification)

These tests too are not done routinely in most laboratories so healthcare providers should specifically test for this disease in unknown cases.

Control and Prevention

  • Awareness about hygiene in public
  • Properly boiled and filtered water
  • Properly cooked clean food
  • Regular cleaning of wells and well water boiled
  • Childcare facilities cleansed and gloves made a necessity for everyone handling feces and feces related materials
  • Masks worn in infected areas as the parasite can be ingested
  • Clean water filters
  • Beverages and water bottles placed in a clean packing
  • Immunocompromised patients are taken more care about hygiene
  • Clean swimming water
  • Healthy handwash before any dirty activity
  • Cattle and farm breeders are made aware of the ways of infection


Most people with healthy immune systems recover by themselves without any treatment. Diarrhea may be managed by drinking plenty of fluids and clean water to prevent dehydration. Poor health and old people are at greater risk to get the severe form of the disease. Young children and pregnant women are at a greater risk of complications if they do not drink water and fluids in plentiful amounts. Anti-diarrheal medicine may help to slow down diarrhea but healthcare providers should be consulted with before taking the medicine.

Nitazoxanide has been FDA-approved for the treatment of diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium and is available by prescription. the efficiency of the drug in immunocompromised is however questionable

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That’s all about Cryptosporidium the leading cause of diarrhea. Leave your queries in the comments below and if you need more info on the disease click Thankyou


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