Amoebias is an inflammation of
the intestines caused by a parasite, Entamoeba
histolytica. This microscopic parasite enters the body
through contaminated food or water. The
is common in areas with poor sanitation or living
conditions. This parasite can live in the intestine without
causing symptoms, or it can produce severe symptoms. It is a
very common problem in India.
How does it occur?
Infection occurs by eating food
or drinking water contaminated with faces, containing the
parasite, Entamoeba histolytica. Another source of the
infection is food (usually raw vegetables and fruit) that
has been handled by an infected person.
People with amoebiasis pass Entamoeba histolytica parasites
in their faces. The infection spreads when infected people
do not dispose of their faces in a sanitary manner or do
not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet.
Contaminated hands can then spread the parasites to food
that may be eaten by other people and surfaces that may be
touched by other people. Hands can also become contaminated
when changing the nappies of an infected infant.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of intestinal
cramps, bowel movements streaked with blood or mucus,
or vomiting and occasionally
The time interval between the parasite's entry into the body
and the appearance of the first symptoms ranges from a few
days to a few weeks, usually varies from two to four weeks.
How is it diagnosed?
The doctor will review the
symptoms, and order a stool test after examining the
patient. The parasite can be detected by a microscopic
examination of freshly passed stool. Occasionally, making
the diagnosis is difficult in cases with symptoms for a long
time. Sometimes sigmoidoscopy is done, which is a procedure
in which the doctor uses a lighted, flexible tube to look
inside the lower part of the colon (large intestine).
How is it treated?
The doctor will prescribe
medication such as metronidazole, diloxanide furoate,
dehydroemetine, emetine, or paromomycin. The
doctor may prescribe more than one drug. If medication is
stopped when the symptoms are gone but before the parasite
is eliminated from the body, the infection may return. An
anti-diarrhoeal medication may also be prescribed.
Metronidazole can produce a metallic taste in the mouth
and may give rise to nausea. Alcoholic drinks must be
avoided while taking metronidazole.
The symptoms of diarrhoea usually last from 3 to 14 days but
can last up to 4 weeks. Recurrences are possible.
How can care be taken at home?
Let the bowel rest by drinking
only clear liquids such as water, juice, tea and oral
rehydrating or electrolyte solutions. It is important to
drink frequently so that dehydration is avoided. Drinking
small amounts at frequent intervals is better accepted in
cases of nausea. Avoid solids because they can cause cramps.
Light soups, toast, rice and eggs are good foods to eat
Is hospitalisation necessary for
Usually amoebiasis can be managed on an out-patient basis.
However, in severe cases, involving the liver or other
organs, require hospitalisation. Other indications for
Cases of chronic dysentery
If liver abscess or any other
extraintestinal infection is suspected
How can amoebiasis be prevented?
Ensuring a safe drinking water supply by
boiling or filtering water is usually effective for
prevention. Chlorine is not effective in killing the
parasite. Avoid unsanitary water supplies.
Wash hands with soap and warm water after
going to the toilet and before eating or preparing food.
Proper food storage and preventing its
contamination with faeces, flies, and contaminated water is
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