Objective: To examine the transmission of Cryptosporidium infection in households with an identified person with cryptosporidiosis.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: An urban slum in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Participants: Thirty-one households with a child less than 3 years of age (index case) who was positive for Cryptosporidium parvum using acid-fast and auramine-stained stool smears.
Measurements: Three stool samples (at 0, 2, and 6 weeks after identification of the index case) and two serum samples (0 and 6 weeks) were collected from each family member in households with an index case of Cryptosporidium infection.
Results: Forty-five percent of index cases of Cryptosporidium infection were associated with persistent (>14 days) diarrhea. Secondary cases of Cryptosporidium infection were identified either by stool examination or seroconversion in 18 (58%) of 31 households involving 30 persons, yielding an overall transmission rate of 19%. Of the 202 persons in this study with at least one serum sample available for analysis, 191 (94.6%) had evidence of antibodies (either IgM or IgG) to Cryptosporidium.
Conclusions: Cryptosporidium parvum is highly transmissible and infective in the family setting, with transmission rates similar to other highly infectious enteric pathogens such as Shigella species. These data are cause for added concern because of the rapidly increasing rate of seropositivity for human immunodeficiency virus.