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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1975;69(5-6):473-6.

Fatal bowel infarction and sepsis: an unusual complication of systemic strongyloidiasis.


A 58 year old Chinese male, one week after arriving in Canada from Hong Kong, presented with acute abdominal pain and diarrhoea which was rapidly followed by Escherichia coli infection causing septicaemia and meningitis. His past history revealed bronchial asthma for 15 years treated with steroids. At laparotomy, 7 days after the onset of symptoms, he was found to have extensive haemorrhagic infarction of the small bowel and right colon. Examination of the fibrosed mesenteric vessels revealed numerous filariform larvae of Strongyloides stercoralis, within the walls, and in all layers of bowel wall. The role of the parasite in the production of obliterative arteritis in this fatal case of haemorrhagic enteropathy is discussed. Clinical strongyloidiasis, in uncomplicated cases, varies from mild to severe with gastroenteritis, nausea, colicky abdominal pain, electrolyte imbalance and symptoms of malabsorption syndrome (MARCIAL-ROJAS, 1971). In malnourished individuals and patients with debilitating infections, either newly acquired or asymptomatic latent infection with S. stercoralis can assume severe dimensions (BROWN and PERNA, 1958; HUGHTON and HORN, 1959). Similarly, in patients on steroid (CRUZ et al., 1966; WILLIS and MWOKOLO, 1966; NEEFE et al., 1973) and immunosuppressive therapy for lymphomatous diseases or deficient in immune response (ROGERS and NELSON, 1966; RIVERA et al., 1970), systemic strongyloidiasis is often fatal. The increased frequency of auto-infection in such patients with a breached immune barrier is, however, unclear. Further complications of this infection due to severe enterocolitis result in sepsis, bacteraemia and meningitis (BROWN and PERNA, 1958; HUGHTON and HORN, 1959). This paper presents a fatal case of S. stercoralis infection which illustrates an uncommon if not unique, mechanism in its production of haemorrhagic enteropathy leading to sepsis and death.

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