To determine the aetiology of persistent diarrhoea in African patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), 42 patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and persistent diarrhoea were enrolled in a microbiological, endoscopic, and histological study. Cryptosporidium was the intestinal parasite most often identified (30%); Isospora belli was found in 12% of the patients. Histological examination of the duodenal mucosa showed a non-specific inflammatory reaction in a significantly higher number of HIV-seropositive patients (82%) than HIV-seronegative controls without diarrhoea (52%) (p=0·02). Lymphocytes were more likely to be found in inflammatory reactions in HIV-seropositive patients than in controls (p<0·· 0001). Pathogens were observed in histological sections of the duodenum of HIV-seropositive patients only (p=0·002) and included cryptosporidia (four patients) Isospora belli (one), Strongyloides stercoralis (one), and Cryptococcus neoformans (one). On histological examination the rectal mucosa of HIVseropositive patients and controls was similar, except eosinphils were more likely to be present in inflammatory reaction in HIV-seropositive patients (p=0·05) and enteric pathogens were observed only in HIV-seropositive patients (cytomegalovirus inclusion bodies (one) and Schistosoma mansoni (two). The aetiology of persistent diarrhoea in most African AIDS patients remains unclear.
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