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We determined the incidence of cryptosporidiosis in children aged <5 years presenting with diarrhoea in an urban and rural hospital-based setting in Malawi. Stools were collected over a 22-month period during both rainy and dry seasons. A range of microscopic methods were used to determine the presence of Cryptosporidium spp. oocysts. Species determination was by polymerase chain reaction–restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR–RFLP) of oocyst-extracted DNA using 18S rRNA and COWP gene loci. Cryptosporidium spp. oocysts were seen in 5·9% (50/848) of samples, of which 43 amplified by PCR–RFLP indicated the following species: C. hominis, C. parvum, C. hominis/C. parvum, C. meleagridis and C. andersoni. Seven samples could not be amplified by PCR. Wider species diversity was found in the rural setting, and may be a result of increased malnutrition and zoonotic exposure in this area. Improvements in water, sanitation, household hygiene and animal control are required to reduce the incidence of infection in this population.
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