Multiplex Real-time PCR Detection of Intestinal Protozoa in HIV-infected Children in Malawi: Enterocytozoon Bieneusi Is Common and Associated With Gastrointestinal Complaints and May Delay BMI (Nutritional Status) Recovery

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Background:Intestinal protozoa are common opportunistic infections in HIV patients. Longitudinal studies on either the clinical relevance or the effect of immune reconstitution by antiretroviral therapy on intestinal protozoan infections in children are lacking however. This study investigates prevalence and clinical relevance of intestinal protozoa in HIV-infected Malawian children before and during their first year of antiretroviral treatment (ART).Methods:Stool samples collected at enrolment and during follow-up were tested for nonopportunistic (Giardia lamblia, Dientamoeba fragilis, Entamoeba histolytica) and opportunistic protozoa (Enterocytozoon bieneusi, Encephalitozoon spp., Cryptosporidium spp. and Cystoisospora belli) using multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction. Associations between infections and clinical symptoms were evaluated using univariate methods.Results:Nonopportunistic and opportunistic protozoa were detected in 40% (14/35) and 46% (16/35) of children at baseline, respectively. E. bieneusi was the most prevalent protozoa (37%, 13/35) and associated with gastrointestinal complaints (43% in positive (10/13) versus 18% (4/22) in E. bieneusi-negative children, P = 0.001. Body mass index recovery during 12 months of ART was more commonly delayed in E. bieneusi-positive children (+0.29 +standard deviation 0.83) than E. bieneusi-negative children (+1.03 +standard deviation 1.25; P = 0.05). E. bieneusi was not detected after 12 months of ART.Conclusions:E. bieneusi was the most prevalent opportunistic intestinal protozoa, present in over a third of study participants before initiation of ART. Although all children cleared E. bieneusi after 12 months of ART, E. bieneusi was associated with gastrointestinal complaints and may delay body mass index recovery. Trials to assess effect of treatment of E. bieneusi on nutritional status should be considered in HIV-infected African children.

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