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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 that is primarily seen in individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), although it can rarely also cause disease in individuals with a normal immune system. Microsporidia are found worldwide, and there are numerous vertebrates and invertebrates that can serve as hosts for this parasite.

Microsporidiosis can cause infection of the intestine, lung, kidney, brain, sinuses, muscles, and eyes. Although there are over 1,200 species of microsporidia, there are 15 species that have been identified as causing disease in humans.

What are risk factors for microsporidiosis?

The main risk factor associated with acquiring microsporidiosis is immunodeficiency. The vast majority of cases of microsporidiosis occur in individuals with a compromised immune system, primarily in people with HIV/AIDS-related immunosuppression. It can also affect immunocompromised individuals such as organ-transplant recipients, people with diabetes, cancer patients, and those who are chronically on steroids. Rarely, microsporidiosis can occur in healthy people with a normal immune system.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/22/2016


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