Cryptosporidium is a parasite which was first identified in 1907 by a scientist called Tyzzer and which can cause an illness called Cryptosporiodiosis. The main offenders when it comes to strains are Cryptosporidium hominis and Cryptosporidium parvum although other strains can sometimes be contracted by humans. Unfortunately this illness most commonly affects children particularly those in the age range of 1-5, and although it is self-limiting it can cause digestive issues including mild or severe watery diarrhea which is distressing to those in this age group. Others who are particularly susceptible to infestation and become symptomatic are those people, including adults, who have an impaired immune response.
Signs and Symptoms of Cryptosporidium
The most widely recognized symptom of a cryptosporidium infestation is watery diarrhea. This can be mild but more often it is quite severe if relatively short-lived. In some people the diarrhea will be accompanied by stomach cramps which again can range from slight discomfort to quite debilitating. Sometimes there will be a low grade fever but this does not appear in all cases.
Although it is primarily known for causing diarrhea, less frequently it can also manifest as a respiratory cough which accompanies the digestive disturbance.
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Causes of Cryptosporidium
Cryptosporidium is not species specific and it is often found in untreated water such as ponds, lakes and rivers. Because of these two factors it makes the parasite quite prevalent and also children in particular are at risk when they play in water. Other areas which can show a high load of the cryptosporidium parasite are farms and outbreaks have been recorded where children have visited town farms, petting zoos or similar. Unfortunately cryptosporidium is also resistant to chlorine treatments and so can be found in public swimming pools or bathing areas.
Because cryptosporidium can also be passed through respiratory cysts then coughing, which usually accompanies the diarrhea can be an indication of this. A respiratory infection alone is unlikely to be due to cryptosporidium.
Tests and Diagnosis for Cryptosporidium
Most often cryptosporidium is diagnosed by symptoms, however there are tests available should they be necessary. The most performed test involves the patient providing a stool sample which can be analyzed for the parasite. In other cases a biopsy may be taken. For patients who are already immunocompromised a white cell count is sometimes performed in addition to the initial diagnosis.
Risk Factors and Prevention for Cryptosporidium
In humans cryptosporidium lives in the lower intestine and is transmitted by produced cysts which are passed in the feces. Because the parasites are prevalent in many species then the opportunity to become infected is higher than with many other parasitic infections and this is often why it is so common to find this organism as being responsible for outbreaks of diarrhea. The cyst once ingested develops in the intestine of the host and is then able to produce cysts of its own. Often groups of individuals are affected because it is so prominent and easily passed from person to person. This applies more particularly when dealing with children in groups such as schools because they tend to be less aware of hygienic routines when illness prevails. If you or your child is affected then it is best to stay home until the diarrhea phase has cleared up.
Also take standard precautions such as increasing hand washing particularly after toileting and more so when changing diapers. Do not share towels, toothbrushes, face cloths or sponges. Wash the clothes of a person you know is infected with cryptosporidium separately although often, because a person is infected with the parasite between 2 to 10 days before symptoms appear, the organism has already been spread. However because a patient is still infectious for several weeks after symptoms have abated this is good practice to avoid further outbreaks.
If you are aware of an outbreak in your region or you are traveling abroad where water supplies may be suspect, use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth and making ice-cubes. Eat only well cooked hot meals and only fruits which requires to be peeled.
If someone has an accompanying respiratory infection caused by cryptosporidium then it is sensible when coughing to always make sure the patient coughs into a disposable tissue which can subsequently be destroyed. Make sure when handling the tissue that gloves are worn or hands are washed thoroughly afterwards.
Best Natural Treatment for Cryptosporidium
Often the only contemporary drug treatment for cryptosporidium is in providing pain relief when stomach cramps are severe. Sometimes this is accompanied by antibiotics or the ‘zole’ drugs, but often these are omitted because more and more clinicians are aware that they can make the condition worse by stripping the intestines of beneficial bacteria.
The illness usually lasts for between 5 days and 4 weeks and the shorter duration is more common so it is recommended that patients are given re-hydrating fluids which consist of sugars and minerals which will maintain the electrolyte balance within the body. This is of course in addition to providing clean water on demand.
More recently it has been established that in addition to re-hydration patient recovery is assisted if probiotics are administered on a daily basis. This procedure has worked well and particularly with patients who are immunocompromised.
You can also include a supplement which incorporates probiotics into the ingredient list, for example Canxida Restore, and which restores healthy bacteria in addition to natural ingredients known to rid the body of infection and provide support to the immune system.
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Best Diet for Cryptosporidium
As already discussed providing patients with probiotics on a daily basis has been scientifically proven to restore the health of the patient. Choose only organic, natural products which contain no preservatives or additives as these only serve to further irritate the digestive tract. It is also recommended to follow a lactose free diet while symptoms persist. This includes removing all dairy sugars from the menu including those added to canned and manufactured produce. Probiotics, although containing a small amount of dairy sugar, provide healthy bacterial support which far outweighs the lactose issue.