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Tropical Sprue

Updated : January 5, 2024





Background

Tropical sprue is a type of malabsorption condition that causes acute or persistent diarrhea. In the lack of a specific etiology of malabsorption, it is seen in tropical people.

It is assumed to be infectious in origin, with environmental variables playing a role. It involves the small intestine and is characterized by malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin B12 and folic acid.

Epidemiology

Tropical sprue geographic spread is not entirely understood. It is prevalent between the latitudes of 30°N and 30°S and is observed in tropical countries. All of the nations in this region are not impacted. In the Western Hemisphere, it is common in Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Cuba, with zero or very few cases in the Bahamas and Jamaica.

In India and Pakistan in the Eastern Hemisphere, it is widespread. The condition typically affects indigenous people and tourists who visit endemic areas for more than a month. It is rarely found in travelers who stay in these places for less than two weeks.

In India and Pakistan, the prevalence is decreasing, most likely due to improved hygiene and widespread antibiotic use. This illness affects both men and women equally. Although it is most common in adults, it has been reported in children.

Anatomy

Pathophysiology

Injuries to the jejunal and ileal mucosa from an acute intestinal infection are followed by intestinal bacterial overgrowth and an increase in plasma enteroglucagon, which slows down small intestinal transit. Folate insufficiency, which likely contributes to additional mucosal damage, is essential to this process.

There are higher levels of the hormones enteroglucagon and motilin in individuals with tropical sprue. These elevations may be brought on by enterocyte damage. The role of motilin is unclear; however, enteroglucagon induces intestinal stasis.

Although the distal small intestine up to the terminal ileum may be damaged, the upper small intestine is predominately impacted since it is a progressive and contiguous disease. The stomach and colon rarely exhibit pathological abnormalities. Coliform bacteria, isolated and frequently linked to tropical sprue, include E. coli, Enterobacter species, and Klebsiella.

Etiology

It has been proposed that the condition is caused by a vitamin or mineral deficiency. However, research has revealed that it is not the primary event that causes it. The remission of symptoms with anti-bacterial medications indicates that bacterial infections may be the cause.

In contrast, stool cultures taken from patients to investigate for bacterial infections have yielded no positive results. Viral infections cause enterocyte damage. They typically induce acute, self-limiting diarrhea rather than persistent diarrhea that might last for months, as observed in tropical sprue.

When viruses like Reovirus were inoculated in monkeys, they caused diarrhea that may persist for weeks. Although evidence suggests that viral illness is the causative agent, techniques for isolating these agents are needed.

Genetics

Prognostic Factors

Tropical sprue usually has a good prognosis. The treatment response has been great in individuals infected while traveling to endemic areas, with little to no recurrence.

The recurrence rate in endemic places is estimated to be over 20%, with recurrent relapses. However, new studies demonstrate that the patterns are improving.

Clinical History

Physical Examination

Age group

Associated comorbidity

Associated activity

Acuity of presentation

Differential Diagnoses

Laboratory Studies

Imaging Studies

Procedures

Histologic Findings

Staging

Treatment Paradigm

Antibiotic Therapy: 

  • Tetracycline or Doxycycline: Antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, which is common in tropical sprue. Tetracycline or doxycycline is commonly prescribed for several weeks. 

Folate and Vitamin B12 Supplementation: 

  • Folate (Folic Acid) and Vitamin B12: Malabsorption in tropical sprue can lead to deficiencies in folate and vitamin B12. Supplementation with these vitamins is often necessary to address deficiencies and support overall health. 

Iron and Other Micronutrient Supplementation: 

  • Iron, Calcium, and other Micronutrients: Depending on specific deficiencies identified through blood tests, supplementation with iron, calcium, and other essential micronutrients may be recommended. 

Nutritional Support: 

  • Enteral Nutrition: In severe cases, when malnutrition is significant, enteral nutrition (tube feeding) may be necessary to provide adequate nutrition and support the healing of the small intestine. 

Dietary Modifications: 

  • Gluten-Free Diet: Some individuals with tropical sprue may benefit from a temporary gluten-free diet. While tropical sprue is not the same as celiac disease, avoiding gluten-containing grains may help reduce symptoms and support recovery. 

Hydration: 

  • Oral Rehydration: If diarrhea and dehydration are present, maintaining proper hydration is essential. Oral rehydration solutions may be recommended to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. 

by Stage

by Modality

Chemotherapy

Radiation Therapy

Surgical Interventions

Hormone Therapy

Immunotherapy

Hyperthermia

Photodynamic Therapy

Stem Cell Transplant

Targeted Therapy

Palliative Care

Use of a non-pharmacological approach for treating Tropical Sprue

Dietary Modifications: 

  • Nutrient-Rich Diet: Emphasize a nutrient-rich diet that includes a variety of vegetables, lean proteins,fruits, and whole grains. With consideration for dietary restrictions and possible dietary needs, a nutritionist may assist in developing a customised meal plan. 
  • Gluten-Free Diet: While tropical sprue is not the same as celiac disease, some individuals may benefit from a temporary gluten-free diet. Eliminating gluten-containing grains may help reduce symptoms and promote intestinal healing. 

Nutritional Supplements: 

  • Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Individuals with tropical sprue often experience deficiencies in vitamins and minerals due to malabsorption. Supplementation with vitamins such as B12, folate, iron, and other micronutrients is common. Dosages and duration will be determined based on blood test results and clinical evaluation. 

Enteral Nutrition (Tube Feeding): 

  • Tube Feeding: In cases of severe malnutrition or when oral intake is insufficient, enteral nutrition through tube feeding may be considered. This method ensures the delivery of essential nutrients directly into the gastrointestinal tract. 

Hydration: 

  • Oral Rehydration Solutions: If diarrhea and dehydration are present, maintaining proper hydration is essential. Oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes can help replace lost fluids. 

Lifestyle Modifications: 

  • Smoking Cessation and Alcohol Limitation: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can exacerbate intestinal inflammation. Encouraging individuals to quit smoking and limit alcohol intake may contribute to overall health and recovery. 

Psychosocial Support: 

  • Counselling and Support Groups: Chronic conditions like tropical sprue can have a significant impact on mental well-being. Individuals might benefit from psychosocial support, such as counselling and involvement in support groups, to help them cope with the problems for handling a chronic disease. 

Role of Combination therapy of Tetracycline and oral folic acid in the treatment of Tropical Sprue

Combination therapy with tetracycline and oral folic acid is a common approach in the treatment of tropical sprue. Chronic inflammation and small intestine damage, which result in impaired nutritional absorption, are the hallmarks of tropical sprue.

Tetracycline, an antibiotic, is often used to target bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, and folic acid supplementation is employed to address the common folate deficiency associated with the condition. Here’s a closer look at the role of this combination therapy: 

Tetracycline: 

  • Antibacterial Action: Tetracycline works well against a wide range of bacteria, including ones that could be causing the small intestine’s bacterial overgrowth, which is a frequent symptom of tropical sprue. 
  • Reduction of Bacterial Load: By reducing the bacterial load, tetracycline helps to improve intestinal function and decrease inflammation. This can result in less diarrhea and nutritional malabsorption. 

Oral Folic Acid: 

  • Correction of Folate Deficiency: Folate deficiency due to malabsorption is a common finding in tropical sprue. Folic acid supplementation is essential for correcting this deficiency and supporting various cellular functions, including DNA synthesis and repair. 
  • Enhancement of Nutrient Absorption: Folic acid supplementation may contribute to improved absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, promoting overall nutritional status. 

Synergistic Effects: 

  • Addressing Multiple Aspects of the Condition: The combination of tetracycline and folic acid addresses different aspects of tropical sprue. Tetracycline targets bacterial overgrowth and reduces inflammation, while folic acid supplementation corrects nutritional deficiencies. 

Duration of Treatment: 

  • Extended Course of Antibiotics: Tetracycline is often prescribed for an extended period, typically several weeks, to ensure that bacterial overgrowth is effectively controlled. 
  • Long-Term Folic Acid Supplementation: Folic acid supplementation may need to continue over the long term to address ongoing malabsorption and maintain adequate folate levels. 

Use of Intervention with a procedure in treating Tropical Sprue

Endoscopy: 

  • Endoscopic Evaluation: In some cases, an upper endoscopy may be performed to assess the extent of damage to the small intestine and obtain biopsies for further evaluation. 
  • Biopsy: Biopsy samples taken during endoscopy can help confirm the diagnosis of tropical sprue and rule out other gastrointestinal conditions. 

Enteral Nutrition: 

  • Tube Feeding: Severe malnutrition in tropical sprue may necessitate enteral nutrition, where a feeding tube is used to deliver nutrients directly into the gastrointestinal tract. This approach helps bypass the damaged portions of the small intestine, allowing for better nutrient absorption. 

Surgical Intervention: 

  • Indications: Surgery is not a standard treatment for tropical sprue but may be considered in rare cases with complications, such as strictures or obstruction of the small intestine. 
  • Stricture Dilation or Resection: If there are strictures or areas of the small intestine with severe damage, endoscopic dilation or surgical resection may be considered. 

Monitoring and Follow-Up: 

  • Regular Assessments: Ongoing monitoring through endoscopic evaluations, imaging studies, and clinical assessments helps gauge the progress of treatment and identify any complications. 
  • Adjustments to Treatment: Based on the patient’s response to initial treatment, adjustments may be made to the management plan. 

Psychosocial Support: 

  • Counseling and Support Services: Chronic conditions like tropical sprue can have a significant impact on mental well-being. Psychosocial support, including counseling and participation in support groups, can be beneficial. 

Use of phases in managing Tropical Sprue

Initial Assessment Phase: 

  • Clinical Evaluation: A thorough clinical assessment is conducted to evaluate symptoms, medical history, and potential risk factors for tropical sprue. 
  • Diagnostic Tests: Laboratory tests, including blood tests to assess nutrient levels and imaging studies, such as endoscopy and biopsy, may be performed to confirm the diagnosis. 

Acute Intervention Phase: 

  • Antibiotic Therapy: Tetracycline or doxycycline is widely administered to treat the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, which is a prevalent symptom of tropical sprue. 
  • Supplementation: Correction of nutritional deficiencies with vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron. 
  • Enteral Nutrition: In severe cases of malnutrition, enteral nutrition through tube feeding may be initiated to ensure adequate nutrient intake. 

Transition to Maintenance Phase: 

  • Symptom Control: As symptoms improve, the focus shifts to maintaining symptom control and preventing relapses. 
  • Long-Term Antibiotic Therapy: In some cases, a prolonged course of antibiotics may be recommended to prevent bacterial overgrowth and maintain remission. 

Nutritional Rehabilitation Phase: 

  • Dietary Modifications: Emphasis on a well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet to support ongoing nutritional rehabilitation. 
  • Monitoring and Adjustments: Regular monitoring of nutrient levels and adjustments to dietary plans and supplements as needed. 

Long-Term Management Phase: 

  • Continued Follow-Up: Regular follow-up appointments with healthcare providers to monitor symptoms, assess nutritional status, and address any emerging issues. 
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Recommendations for lifestyle modifications, including dietary habits, physical activity, and stress management. 
  • Patient Education: Providing ongoing education to the patient about the condition, management strategies, and the importance of adherence to treatment plans. 

Monitoring and Prevention of Complications: 

  • Complication Surveillance: Regular monitoring for complications such as strictures, obstruction, or other gastrointestinal issues. 
  • Preventive Measures: Take preventive measures to avoid complications and promptly address any emerging concerns. 

Psychosocial Support: 

  • Counseling and Support Services: Chronic conditions can impact mental health. Psychosocial support, including counseling and support groups, may be beneficial for the patient’s well-being. 

Medication

Media Gallary

Tropical Sprue

Updated : January 5, 2024




Tropical sprue is a type of malabsorption condition that causes acute or persistent diarrhea. In the lack of a specific etiology of malabsorption, it is seen in tropical people.

It is assumed to be infectious in origin, with environmental variables playing a role. It involves the small intestine and is characterized by malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin B12 and folic acid.

Tropical sprue geographic spread is not entirely understood. It is prevalent between the latitudes of 30°N and 30°S and is observed in tropical countries. All of the nations in this region are not impacted. In the Western Hemisphere, it is common in Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Cuba, with zero or very few cases in the Bahamas and Jamaica.

In India and Pakistan in the Eastern Hemisphere, it is widespread. The condition typically affects indigenous people and tourists who visit endemic areas for more than a month. It is rarely found in travelers who stay in these places for less than two weeks.

In India and Pakistan, the prevalence is decreasing, most likely due to improved hygiene and widespread antibiotic use. This illness affects both men and women equally. Although it is most common in adults, it has been reported in children.

Injuries to the jejunal and ileal mucosa from an acute intestinal infection are followed by intestinal bacterial overgrowth and an increase in plasma enteroglucagon, which slows down small intestinal transit. Folate insufficiency, which likely contributes to additional mucosal damage, is essential to this process.

There are higher levels of the hormones enteroglucagon and motilin in individuals with tropical sprue. These elevations may be brought on by enterocyte damage. The role of motilin is unclear; however, enteroglucagon induces intestinal stasis.

Although the distal small intestine up to the terminal ileum may be damaged, the upper small intestine is predominately impacted since it is a progressive and contiguous disease. The stomach and colon rarely exhibit pathological abnormalities. Coliform bacteria, isolated and frequently linked to tropical sprue, include E. coli, Enterobacter species, and Klebsiella.

It has been proposed that the condition is caused by a vitamin or mineral deficiency. However, research has revealed that it is not the primary event that causes it. The remission of symptoms with anti-bacterial medications indicates that bacterial infections may be the cause.

In contrast, stool cultures taken from patients to investigate for bacterial infections have yielded no positive results. Viral infections cause enterocyte damage. They typically induce acute, self-limiting diarrhea rather than persistent diarrhea that might last for months, as observed in tropical sprue.

When viruses like Reovirus were inoculated in monkeys, they caused diarrhea that may persist for weeks. Although evidence suggests that viral illness is the causative agent, techniques for isolating these agents are needed.

Tropical sprue usually has a good prognosis. The treatment response has been great in individuals infected while traveling to endemic areas, with little to no recurrence.

The recurrence rate in endemic places is estimated to be over 20%, with recurrent relapses. However, new studies demonstrate that the patterns are improving.

Antibiotic Therapy: 

  • Tetracycline or Doxycycline: Antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, which is common in tropical sprue. Tetracycline or doxycycline is commonly prescribed for several weeks. 

Folate and Vitamin B12 Supplementation: 

  • Folate (Folic Acid) and Vitamin B12: Malabsorption in tropical sprue can lead to deficiencies in folate and vitamin B12. Supplementation with these vitamins is often necessary to address deficiencies and support overall health. 

Iron and Other Micronutrient Supplementation: 

  • Iron, Calcium, and other Micronutrients: Depending on specific deficiencies identified through blood tests, supplementation with iron, calcium, and other essential micronutrients may be recommended. 

Nutritional Support: 

  • Enteral Nutrition: In severe cases, when malnutrition is significant, enteral nutrition (tube feeding) may be necessary to provide adequate nutrition and support the healing of the small intestine. 

Dietary Modifications: 

  • Gluten-Free Diet: Some individuals with tropical sprue may benefit from a temporary gluten-free diet. While tropical sprue is not the same as celiac disease, avoiding gluten-containing grains may help reduce symptoms and support recovery. 

Hydration: 

  • Oral Rehydration: If diarrhea and dehydration are present, maintaining proper hydration is essential. Oral rehydration solutions may be recommended to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.