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Parasite. 1999 Sep;6(3):217-22.

Experimental respiratory cryptosporidiosis in immunosuppressed rats: a light and electron microscopy study.

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Laboratory of Electron Microscopy, University-IRCCS San Matteo, Pavia, Italy.


Cryptosporidium parvum is a coccidian protozoon that causes diarrhoeal enteritis in immunocompetent and immunocompromised humans and other mammals. Sometimes, chiefly in HIV-infected subjects, anatomical sites other than gastro-intestinal tract, such as the biliary and respiratory tree, are involved. We performed an experimental respiratory infection in immunosuppressed albino rats with a C. parvum human-derived isolate, to confirm the possibility of a primary infection at this site and to evaluate the protozoan damages by light and also by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The animals were infected intratracheally with 1 x 10(6) C. parvum oocysts/ml and, from the 7th day post-infection, biological specimens of trachea, bronchi, lung and ileum were zoopsied. A sole cryptosporidial colonization of the respiratory tract, from the trachea to the median bronchi, without lung parenchyma infection, was observed. Moreover 13/33 (39.4%) rats also developed intestinal infection. TEM study of the respiratory tree specimens demonstrated that cryptosporidia infect either ciliated or goblet cells, and confirmed the role of microvilli in the parasite cell adhesion. The most relevant alterations involved the ciliated cells, with loss of cilia and nuclear and cytoplasmic damages.

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