Amoebic Dysentery (Amoebiasis) is an infection of the large intestine caused primarily by a single celled protozoan parasite (amoeba) called Entamoeba histolytica. Dysentery symptoms include severe diarrhea, blood and mucus in the feces, mild fever, and stomach pain.
Amoebic dysentery accounts for 70,000 deaths occurring annually around the globe.
How Does Amoebic Dysentery Spread?
The infection is acquired by the ingestion (swallowing) of food or water that has been contaminated by the feces of infected individuals who shed the organism (cyst or egg like stage of the parasite) in their feces.
Poor personal hygiene, unsafe drinking water, oral-anal sexual contact, and uncooked food items are the main factors that play a role in spreading the disease.
The Progression Of Amoebic Dysentery
Once the organism enters the human digestive tract, it takes 7–28 days to trigger visible clinical symptoms.
In a majority of the cases, the infection presents itself as a milder form with or without symptoms. But in 20% of the cases, it can cause severe invasive infection of the liver or other organs, causing complications that require serious medical attention.
Stool that is released from the bowel with streaks of blood is a characteristic feature of amoebic dysentery. Other symptoms include abdominal tenderness, stomach pain, nausea, excessive gas, fatigue, liver abscess, mild fever, an enlarged liver, and jaundice.
Massive diarrhea due to the disease also leads to dehydration. Immunocompromised (individuals with low immunity such as HIV patients, malnourished individuals, diabetics etc) face a greater risk of developing complications.
Identifying The Presence Of Amoebic Dysentery
Dysentery diagnosis involves the collection of at least 3 fresh stool samples over a period of 2-3 days. These samples are then sent to the laboratory for confirmation of the infection.
The appearance of ova (cyst) and parasitic forms of amoeba under microscopic examination is taken as the confirmation for amoebiasis. Alternately, doctors also check the blood for antibodies in order to confirm the diagnosis. Other measures like a CT scan, MRI scan, and colonoscopy aid in diagnosing the disease.
How Amoebic Dysentery Is Treated
Treatment is to be started only after consulting a doctor. Metronidazole or tinidazole is administered to patients who suffer from amoebic dysentery, followed by a 10 day course of diloxanide furoate.
Fluid and electrolyte replacement, either through ORS solutions or intravenous administration, should be taken care of in order to prevent dehydration. Liver abscess can be drained or aspirated to prevent its rupture.
Can Amoebic Dysentery Be Prevented?
Definitely! Proper dysentery prevention measures can help you avoid the onset of amoebic dysentery.
Washing your hands thoroughly after using toilets and before eating or preparing food, drinking sterilized (boiled) water, disposing your sewage properly, refraining from anal intercourse, and avoiding raw or uncooked foods from street vendors can help you prevent amoebic dysentery. If dysentery causes have already resulted in the infection, it is advisable to seek immediate amoebic dysentery treatment.