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What is Balantidiasis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Balantidiasis is an infection with a protozoan known as Balantidium coli. This parasitic protozoan can be found all over the world, especially in areas where pigs are raised and handled. Many people have this infection without experiencing symptoms and may develop a chronic form of the infection if it is not caught in a timely fashion. Treatment requires the administration of antibiotics to the patient to kill the organisms in the intestine.

People contract balantidiasis by consuming contaminated food and water. This may be the result of poor hygiene on the part of a person carrying the protozoans and can also be caused by poor containment of human and pig waste. People swallow infectious cysts created by the protozoans, the cysts settle in the large intestine, and multiplication of the protozoans begins, creating an active infection. The infectious person will regularly pass cysts in the stool, allowing the organism to spread.

In a person who does experience symptoms, weight loss, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are the typical warning signs of balantidiasis. The condition may not be identified immediately, as these symptoms can be associated with a number of other gastrointestinal conditions. Examination of a stool sample is required to spot the tell-tale cysts found in balantidiasis patients. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, medications can be prescribed to treat the infection.

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Asymptomatic patients should be treated, if possible, as it is possible to develop chronic balantidiasis, which can cause gastrointestinal problems. The infection may lead to inflammation of the intestines and could contribute to the development of complications, including damage to the walls of the intestines. In communities where the disease is common, routine testing may be regularly recommended to check for signs of parasitic infection and treat these infections as early as possible.

There are a number of tactics for prevention of balantidiasis. Boiling water, cooking food thoroughly, and observing basic hygiene in the kitchen and bathroom can limit the spread of the organisms. People who work with pigs should take care to wash thoroughly before eating, so they do not inadvertently ingest infectious cysts. If a case of balantidiasis is identified, people who have been in contact with the patient should be tested for signs of infection as well so they can be treated if necessary. Travelers should make sure to eat food prepared in clean conditions and should alert their doctors to travel history if they become sick and seek medical treatment.

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