What Is Amoebiasis?

J.M. Willhite

Amoebiasis, also known as Entamoeba histolytica infection or amebiasis, is a parasitic-based intestinal infection associated with unsanitary conditions. Originating with exposure to Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica), ingestion is the most common method of infection transmission. Treatment generally involves the administration of antibiotics to eradicate the infection. Individuals traveling to areas where exposure to E. histolytica is likely are encouraged to take precautionary measures, such as only consuming bottled or properly filtered tap water.

Symptoms of amoebiasis may include abdominal discomfort.
Symptoms of amoebiasis may include abdominal discomfort.

A diagnosis of amoebiasis is usually only made in those individuals who have symptoms. It is important to note that not all exposures to E. histolytica progress to infection. Laboratory testing of a sample of one’s stool is the only method for identifying amoebiasis infection. In some cases, blood testing may be performed if one’s condition is indicative of the infection spreading beyond the confines of the bowel.

Amoebiasis may cause an abscess to develop in the liver.
Amoebiasis may cause an abscess to develop in the liver.

Individuals who travel to locations that have insufficient sanitation are most likely to come into contact with E. histolytica. Of the known intestinal infectious diseases, amoebiasis presents when E. histolytica is ingested either directly, through contaminated fluids or food, or indirectly, such as when one practices poor personal hygiene. Water supplies and food may become contaminated when human waste is poorly disposed of or used as compost. Those who touch E. histolytica-contaminated items can unknowingly carry the parasite on their hands until they're washed. The infection may also be passed between homosexual men who engage in unprotected sex.

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Individuals traveling to ares where exposure to E. histolytica is likely are encouraged to only consume tap water that's been properly filtered.
Individuals traveling to ares where exposure to E. histolytica is likely are encouraged to only consume tap water that's been properly filtered.

Considering that not all who are exposed to E. histolytica develop amoebiasis, not all those who develop amoebiasis present with symptoms. If symptoms do develop, it can take up to a month before one begins to exhibit signs. Individuals who become symptomatic often experience diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and cramping.

Amoebiasis is a parasitic-based intestinal infection associated with unsanitary conditions.
Amoebiasis is a parasitic-based intestinal infection associated with unsanitary conditions.

Depending on the severity of one’s diarrhea, dehydration can be a risk. In some cases, severe amoebiasis infection may become invasive to tissues outside the bowel, namely the liver. Infection that settles in the liver can cause an abscess, which is the localized accumulation of pus. Individuals with an amebic liver abscess can develop additional symptoms, including profuse sweating, widespread joint discomfort, and jaundice.

Amoebiasis may develop as a result of poor personal hygiene.
Amoebiasis may develop as a result of poor personal hygiene.

Treatment for amoebiasis requires the administration of antibiotics. Frequently, the severity of infection dictates whether a single or multiple antibiotics are used and the dose. The goal of treatment is to eliminate all traces of infection from one’s system, which necessitates the completion of all antibiotics as directed. If an amebic liver abscess is detected, a catheter may be positioned to aid with the elimination of pus and alleviate pressure.

People who may be exposed to E. hystolica should consume bottled water.
People who may be exposed to E. hystolica should consume bottled water.

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