Amebiasis is an infectious disease caused by a parasitic one-celled micro-organism (protozoan) named Entamoeba histolytica. People suffering from amebiasis may experience a wide range of symptoms, including diarrhoea, fever and cramps. The disease may also affect the intestines, liver or other various parts of the human body. Amebiasis is also known as amebic dysentery and is one of the most common parasitic diseases to affect humans with over 500 million new cases reported each year. The disease normally occurs in tropical to subtropical climates where frequently sanitation is inadequate.

Symptoms of Amebiasis:

  • Loose stool.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Stomach Pain.

Who is at risk for Amebiasis?

  • Amebiasis is most common in the Indian subcontinents, South America and parts of Africa.

Persons at greatest risk of Amebiasis:

  • People who have travelled to tropical location with poor sanitation.
  • Immigrants from tropical countries with poor sanitary conditions.
  • People with compromised immune systems and other health conditions.

What causes Amebiasis?

Endameba histolytica is a single-celled protozoan that usually enters the body when a person ingests cysts through direct contact with fecal matter. The cysts are a relatively inactive form of the parasite that can live for several months in the soil or environment where they were deposited in feces. Food handlers may transmit the cysts while preparing or handling food.

How is Amebiasis diagnosed?

  • A doctor may suspect Amebiasis after asking about your recent health and travel history. Your doctor may test you for the presence of Endameba histolytica through stool samples taken over several days to screen for the presence of cysts. Doctors may order lab tests to check liver function, which can determine if the ameba has damaged your liver.
  • If damage to your internal organs is a concern, a doctor will order an ultrasound to check for lesions on your liver. If lesions appear a doctor will perform a needle aspiration to see if the liver has any abscesses. An abscess in the liver is a serious consequence of Amebiasis and a colonoscopy may be necessary to check for the presence of the parasite in your intestinal or colon tissue.

Treatment of Amebiasis:

  • 10-day course of metronidazole given orally.
  • Surgery may be necessary if the colon or peritoneal tissues have perforations.

How can I prevent Amebiasis?

  • Proper sanitation is the key to avoiding Amebiasis.
  • Wash your hands and all surfaces when preparing and eating food.
  • Thoroughly wash fruit and vegetables before eating.
  • Stick to bottled water and soft drinks.
  • If you drink water, boil it or treat it with iodine.