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Parasitology. 2011 Apr;138(5):557-72. doi: 10.1017/S0031182010001733. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

The ambiguous life of Dientamoeba fragilis: the need to investigate current hypotheses on transmission.

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  • 1Division of Microbiology, SydPath, St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, Australia.

Abstract

Dientamoeba fragilis is an inhabitant of the human bowel and is associated with gastrointestinal illness. Despite its discovery over a century ago, the details of Dientamoeba's life cycle are unclear and its mode of transmission is unknown. Several theories exist which attempt to explain how Dientamoeba may be transmitted. One theory suggests that animals are responsible for the transmission of Dientamoeba. However, reports of Dientamoeba in animals are sporadic and most are not supported by molecular evidence. Another theory suggests that Dientamoeba may be transmitted via the ova of a helminth. Given that the closest relative of Dientamoeba is transmitted via the ova of a helminth, this theory seems plausible. It has also been suggested that Dientamoeba could be transmitted directly between humans. This theory also seems plausible given that other relatives of Dientamoeba are transmitted in this way. Despite numerous investigations, Dientamoeba's mode of transmission remains unknown. This review discusses the strengths and weaknesses of theories relating to Dientamoeba's mode of transmission and, by doing so, indicates where gaps in current knowledge exist. Where information is lacking, suggestions are made as to how future research could improve our knowledge on the life cycle of Dientamoeba.

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