Strongyloides stercoralis hyperinfection: difficulties in diagnosis and treatment

N M Feely, D J Waghorn, T Dexter, I Gallen, P Chiodini
Anaesthesia 2010, 65 (3): 298-301
Immunocompromised patients who are infected with Strongyloides stercoralis may develop a potentially fatal auto-infection syndrome characterised by non-specific pulmonary and gastrointestinal symptoms and Gram negative sepsis. We present the case of one such patient who underwent a negative laparotomy for a presumed intra-abdominal surgical catastrophe with a subsequent protracted stay on the intensive care unit. Once the diagnosis of strongyloidiasis was made, the patient was successfully treated with subcutaneous antihelminthic drugs. With appropriate screening for and eradication of strongyloides in those with immune compromise, or in those about to start immunosuppressive therapy, potentially fatal episodes of hyperinfection could be avoided. In the absence of screening, severe strongyloidiasis should be suspected in immunosuppressed individuals who have travelled to or resided in an endemic area and present with the characteristic features. Awareness of the signs of hyperinfection amongst those involved in acute care could prevent unnecessary morbidity and mortality in these patients.

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