Asymptomatic Strongyloides stercoralis hyperinfection in an alcoholic patient with intense anemia

M C A Teixeira, E J Inês, F T F Pacheco, R K N R Silva, A V Mendes, E V Adorno, F M Lima, N M Soares
Journal of Parasitology 2010, 96 (4): 833-5
Strongyloides stercoralis infection is endemic in many tropical and subtropical areas. The parasite has the unusual ability to multiply inside the host due to the transformation of rhabditiform larvae into infective filariforms. Several studies have shown that chronic alcoholism is an important factor that predisposes to strongyloidiasis. The increased susceptibility to S. stercoralis infections seen in alcoholic individuals could be explained by their increased exposure to the parasite, malnutrition, breakdown of local immune responses, and/or alterations in intestinal barriers. Moreover, ethanol intoxication can elevate human endogenous corticosterone, which, in turn, suppresses T cell function and increases the fecundity and survival of the parasite, mimicking the effect of worm ecdysteroides. Although chronic alcoholism is a risk factor for nematode infection, most cases of hyperinfection or dissemination are associated with the presence of hepatic cirrhosis or strongyloidiasis-related symptoms. The present study describes a case of S. stercoralis hyperinfection in a 51-yr-old male patient without gastrointestinal or pulmonary symptoms and with previous anemia and chronic alcoholism. He was not receiving glucocorticoid therapy and tested negative for HTLV and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but he had a history of alcohol addiction for more than 20 yr. Laboratory test results showed increased eosinophilia and a high immunoglobulin E (IgE) level, which may have temporarily protected the patient from dissemination of infection, but not prevented proliferation of the parasite, as shown by the large number of S. stercoralis larvae recovered using the Baermann method. Evaluation for strongyloidiasis should occur in alcoholics, especially in endemic areas, to prevent occult asymptomatic infections from progressing to life-threatening cases.

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