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Amoebiasis - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Amoebiasis (also known as spelt amebiasis) is an infection caused by the parasite entamoeba histolytica. It is usually contracted by ingesting water or food contaminated with amoebic cysts. Amoebiasis is an intestinal infection that may or may not be symptomatic. When symptoms are present it is generally known as invasive amoebiasis. People with amoebiasis have Entamoeba histolytica parasites in their faeces. The infection can spread when infected people do not dispose of their faeces in a sanitary manner or do not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet. It is usually transmitted by contamination of drinking water and foods with fecal matter, but it can also be transmitted indirectly through contact with dirty hands or objects. After infection, it may take from a few days up to two to four weeks before becoming ill. Some people with amebiasis may carry the parasite for weeks to years, often without symptoms.

Although rarely, amoebiasis can cause abscesses in the liver, lungs, and brain or even elsewhere in the body. Symptoms take from a few days to a few weeks to develop and manifest themselves, but usually it is about two to four weeks. Symptoms can range from mild diarrhoea to dysentery with blood and mucus. The blood comes from amoebae invading the lining of the intestine. Rarely, amoebiasis can cause an abscess in the liver. After infection, it may take a few days, several months or even years before you become ill but it is usually about two or four weeks. To trace the cause of the illness, it is necessary to know what you ate and drank and where you travelled in the weeks before you became ill. The parasite can cause ulcers to form in the intestine resulting in amoebic dysentery. Under these circumstances the diarrhoea becomes watery and bloody, the abdominal pain becomes more severe, and fever develops.

Causes of Amoebiasis

Amoebiasis is caused by a protozoa. Amoebiasis is commonly spread by water contaminated by faeces or from food served by contaminated hands. It can also spread to other organs like the liver, and brain by invading the venous system of the intestines. Asymptomatic carriers pass cysts in the faeces. Contaminated drinking water can also spread infection. The disease may also spread y oral-anal contact.

Common causes and risk factors of Amoebiasis:

  • Eating contaminated food.
  • Anal or directly from person to person contact.
  • Eating Non-Veg foods.
  • Unhygienic conditions and Poor sanitation areas.
  • Eating vegetables and fruits which have been contaminated by the harmful bacteria.

Signs and Symptoms of Amoebiasis

The most common symptoms of amoebiasis are diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever. Rarely, amoebiasis can cause an abscess in the liver. Entamoeba histolytica parasites are only found in humans. After infection, it may take a few days, several months or even years before you become ill but it is usually about two or four weeks.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Nausea.
  • Painful passage of stools.
  • Loss of Weight.
  • Severe stomach pain.
  • Loss of Appetite.
  • Profuse diarrhoea.

Treatment for Amoebiasis

As a result two different sorts of drugs are needed to rid the body of the infection, one for each location. Metronidazole, or a related drug such a tinidazole, is used to destroy amebae that have invaded tissue. It is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the site of infection. Antibiotics, such as Metronidazole are necessary, and are given for 5 days for amoebic dysentery and for 10-14 days if there is a liver abcess or extraintestinal spread. Large abcesses in the liver may require drainage, using an ultrasound scan to localise the abcess accurately and position the drainage needle.

Treatment may include:

  • An anti-diarrhoeal medication may also be prescribed. Metronidazole can produce a metallic taste in the mouth and may give rise to nausea.
  • Make a leaf paste with dried neem leaves and an equal quantity of turmeric powder mixed with mustard oil. This should be applied on the body and left for an hour or so and then the person should bath.
  • If amoebiasis causes an abscess on your liver or other organs and the abscess does not respond to antibiotics, it may need to be drained surgically.
  • The juice of apricot leaves should be extracted and applied over the infected area. It has beneficial results in the treatment of amoebiasis.