Immunosuppression is associated with the occurrence of a large variety of infections, several of them due to opportunistic protozoa. The parasitic protozoa of the family Trypanosomatidae vary greatly in their importance as potential opportunistic pathogens. African trypanosomiasis is no more common nor severe during AIDS. The situation with Chagas' disease, however, is much different. Although the process is not clearly understood, there appears to be a reactivation of Trypanosoma cruzi infection, which can lead to severe meningoencephalitis. In persons with AIDS, leishmaniasis is often exacerbated, particularly Leishmania infantum, which causes visceral leishmaniasis in southern Europe. Since 1990, 1,616 cases of visceral leishmaniasis/HIV co-infection have been reported, mainly from southern Europe, and particularly from Spain, southern France, and Italy. The co-infected patients are primarily young adults and belong to the risk group of intravenous drug users. Isoenzymatic identification of 272 isolates showed 18 different L. infantum zymodemes, of which 10 represent new zymodemes hitherto found only during HIV co-infection. New foci of co-infection are emerging in various parts of the world, including Brazil and East Africa. Moreover, since 1995, non-human monoxenous trypanosomatids have been found in AIDS patients, causing both diffuse cutaneous lesions and visceral infections. In countries where visceral leishmaniasis is endemic, particularly in southern Europe, immunosuppressive treatments for organ transplants or malignant diseases often result either in reactivation of asymptomatic visceral leishmaniasis or in facilitation of new infections.
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Vol. 47 • No. 1