February 26, 2024

Sulfa Allergies Limit Effective Cyclospora Treatment

Hundreds of people from Iowa to Texas are battling infections from Cyclospora, a rare parasite that causes months of diarrhea, and for some of them there isn’t a good treatment option. Cyclospora is commonly treated with an antiobiotic that contains sulfa called Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX) which is sold under the brand names Bactrim, Septra and Cotrim.

cyclospora-outbreak-384However, “no highly effective alternative antibiotic regimen has been identified yet for patients who do not respond to the standard treatment or have a sulfa allergy,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For these patients, treatment of symptoms may be the only option.

Symptoms of a Cyclospora infection usually begin about a week after exposure and include bouts of watery or explosive diarrhea that last up to two months,nausea, vomiting, bloating, flatulence, burping, bloating, abdominal cramps, weight loss, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, fatigue and malaise.  These symptoms can lead to  dehydration, a serious medical condition. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, reduced urine output, reduced tear production and dry mouth or tongue. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor.

Cases of Cyclospora infection have been reported in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin. Health officials are trying to determine if the cases are all pat of a large, multi-state outbreak.

Cyclospora is a single cell parasite that is transmitted via the fecal-oral route, meaning those who became ill ate or drank something that contained microscopic amounts of fecal matter. It is most common in tropical regions. Imported fresh produce including raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun lettuce have been linked to a number of U.S. outbreaks over the last 20 years.

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