What is gastrointestinal amebiasis?
Gastrointestinal amebiasis is an infectional disease that is caused by a parasite called Entamoeba histolytica. As the parasite generally makes its way into the body via food, the infection is also called food poisoning. The infection is more common in unclean or crowded areas.
What is the cause of gastrointestinal amebiasis?
The parasite lives in the human intestine. Bowel movements can further transmit the parasite to soil, water, or food. Fruits or vegetables can get contaminated if they come in contact with this soil or water. Generally contaminated food look and smell normal.
You may get infected if you put anything in your mouth that contains the parasite. For example:
- When you eat contaminated food.
- When you eat food that has been handled by someone who is infected.
- When you swallow water from a well, lake, stream, or city water that has not been treated to kill germs.
- When you have come in contact with bowel movement from an infected person by touching towels or bathroom fixtures they have used or through sexual contact.
Rarely, the parasite can go from your intestine into your bloodstream and infect other organs.
How is gastrointestinal amebiasis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you. You may have tests such as:
- Blood test
- Test of a sample of your bowel movements
- Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, which uses a thin, flexible tube and tiny camera put into your rectum and up into the colon to look for disease
What are the symptoms of gastrointestinal amebiasis?
The parasite can reside in your intestine for some days or even months without causing any of the symptoms. When it causes symptoms, they may include:
- Diarrhea or bowel movements streaked with blood or mucus
- Cramps or tenderness in your belly
- Vomiting or nausea
How is gastrointestinal amebiasis treated?
Your doctor may prescribe medicine that will kill the parasite. Your provider may also prescribe medicine to treat the diarrhea.
If your symptoms are major, you may need liquids through an IV until the diarrhea gets better. This treatment can be needed to keep you away from losing too much fluid and getting dehydrated.
Usually the diarrhea lasts for 3 to 14 days. Sometimes it lasts as long as 4 weeks.
How can someone help in preventing gastrointestinal amebiasis?
These steps can help prevent food poisoning:
- Wash your hands and clean any dishes or utensils before you prepare, cook, serve, or eat food. Keep kitchen counters and other food preparation surfaces clean. Change used dishcloths and kitchen towels with clean ones often.
- Cover any kind of opening or cut on your hands before preparing food. Use rubber gloves or cover the sore with a clean bandage.
- Wash fresh vegetables and fruits before you eat or cook them.