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What is Amebiasis?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2018
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Amebiasis is an infection with a parasite called entamoeba hystolyca. It may also be called amoebic dysentery, though this may refer to more severe forms of the illness. Infection with this parasite is extremely common in developing countries and may occur in industrialized countries too. The means of transmission is by oral contact with infected feces. This can be either direct, or people can get it by drinking water or eating foods that are contaminated with it.

People may have mild to severe reactions to amebiasis. Most common symptoms are diarrhea or lose stools, stomach cramps or general stomach pain, and loss of appetite. In moderately severe infections stomach pain is significant, bloody diarrhea may be present, and some people have fevers. Under very rare conditions the parasites spread to other parts of the body and may affect the liver, the lungs, or the brain.

Unfortunately there is no vaccination to prevent amebiasis, and it is a risk, especially when people travel to less developed countries or live in them. It can help to drink only bottled water, to observe good hand washing practices, and to make certain not to eat any food prepared under questionable circumstances. People don’t need to travel outside of their countries to get this condition though. It might occur by drinking contaminated unfiltered water on a camping trip, and filtering any water is highly recommended.

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It is fairly easy to contaminate others when an active amebiasis case is present. It is exceptionally important if a person has this illness that he or she washes hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom. Rate of spread may be higher when people routinely engage in practices like anal sex that cause more exposure to the infection source.

Typically when people have symptoms of watery bowel movements, pain and cramping, and when this does not resolve in a few days, they should see their doctors. Doctors may want to have patients provide a stool sample. This is the primary means of looking for the illness. With the stool sample, doctors will look for presence of e. hystolyca, though it is occasionally missed or misdiagnosed as another amoebic parasite.

When diagnosed, typical treatment is with antiparisitic drugs that will help kill the parasites. Sometimes more than one drug is used in two separate courses. Provided symptoms have improved the condition may be considered cured, though some doctors prefer to do another stool analysis to be certain e. hystolyca is no longer present. Interestingly there is a blood test that might detect presence of this parasite, and this will tend to read positive even after amebiasis has been successfully treated. It is therefore inappropriate to use as a means of determining if the infection has cleared.

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