Amebiasis, also known as amoebic dysentery, is a serious parasitic infection. This condition can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloody stools, or it may cause no symptoms at all. The parasite that causes amebiasis only lives in humans and can spread through feces, infected food or water, or sexual contact.
Between 40,000–110,000Trusted Source people die globally from amebiasis every year.
Practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent the spread of this infection. But if a person suspects they have amebiasis, they should contact their doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can improve the outlook for this condition, as well as help stop it from spreading to other people.
This article will explain amebiasis and its causes. It will also discuss the risk factors and duration of this condition, as well as giving information on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
What is it?
Amebiasis happens due to infection from the amoebas of the Entamoeba group.
As a 2021 reviewTrusted Source explains, most symptomatic amebiasis infections involve the Entamoeba histolytica species. Entamoeba dispar, a different species in the Entamoeba group, cannot cause the disease. Scientists are unsure about whether Entamoeba moshkovskii can cause amebiasis.
Around 9 out of 10Trusted Source people with amebiasis do not experience any symptoms.
When amebiasis does cause symptoms, they result from the infection damaging a person’s intestines. These symptoms include:
The duration of a person’s amebiasis depends upon how the infection progresses. For example, the more common gastrointestinal symptoms gradually develop over 1–3 weeksTrusted Source after the infection has begun.
But some people can develop complications, such as amoebic liver abscesses, from amebiasis months or even years after coming into contact with Entamoeba histolytica. It will depend upon how well a person’s body is able to fight the infection.
In rare cases, amebiasis can affect a person’s respiratory tract, for example, causing a collapsed lung. When some amoebic liver abscesses rupture, this can sometimes lead to conditions such as empyema or hepato-bronchial fistula. Their typical symptoms include:
It is even less common for amebiasis to cause heart problems, although this is possible.
Amebiasis can, in very rare cases, lead to amoebic brain abscesses. These can cause the following symptoms:
The parasite that causes amebiasis only lives in humans. If someone has amebiasis, they can spread it via their feces.
A person can get amebiasis by putting something in their mouth that has come into contact with the infected feces. If a person eats or drinks food or water that has touched the parasite, they may also become infected.
In the United States, amebiasis is more likely in people who have traveled to countries with poor sanitary conditions.
The parasite can also spread via oral-anal contact.