Previous studies have found a high prevalence of Isospora belli and Cryptosporidium parvum infections in African acquired immune deficiency syndrome (aids) patients with chronic diarrhoea. We aimed to determine the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasite in aids patients in hospital, not only those with diarrhoea, and to compare them with the general community. Clinically diagnosed aids patients in a Zambian teaching hospital were interviewed and examined, and stool specimens were studied for parasite infection. A control group was recruited from adults in a township near Lusaka. Of 90 aids patients (58% male), 50 (56%) had chronic diarrhoea and 9 (10%) had diarrhoea of shorter duration. In the control group (105 adults; 85% female), only one complained of diarrhoea. A variety of intestinal protozoa and helminths was found in 57% of aids patients and 88% of the community members. Isosporiasis was detected in 7, and cryptosporidiosis in 2, aids patients, all with diarrhoea, but not in any control. Strongyloides was found in 2 aids patients with diarrhoea and one community resident. Hospital patients with aids had fewer Entamoeba coli and E. histolytica infections, probably because of previous chemotherapy. We conclude that aids predisposes to isosporiasis and cryptosporidiosis, but not to infection with extracellular intestinal parasites, such as Entamoeba species, Blastocystis, Chilomastix, Endolimax, Ascaris and Necator.

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