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Amebiasis

An acute or chronic infection caused by amoebas, a type of parasite. Symptoms vary from mild diarrhea to frequent, watery diarrhea and loss of water and fluids in the body.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About Amebiasis

Amebiasis is a disease caused by a one-celled parasite called Entamoeba histolytica.

Who is at risk for amebiasis?

Although anyone can have this disease, it is more common in people who live in tropical areas with poor sanitary conditions. In the United States, amebiasis is most common in:

  • People who have traveled to tropical places that have poor sanitary conditions
  • Immigrants from tropical countries that have poor sanitary conditions...Read more about Amebiasis

CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Antiamoebic drugs for treating amoebic colitis

Amoebic colitis is caused by the parasite Entamoeba histolytica. This protozoan is distributed throughout the world and is commonly acquired by ingestion of contaminated food or water. It is estimated that about 40 to 50 million people infected with E. histolytica develop amoebic colitis or extraintestinal abscesses, which result in up to 100,000 deaths per year.

Percutaneous needle aspiration does not seem to help patients with uncomplicated amoebic liver abscesses

Amoebiasis (disease caused by the protozoan Entameoba histolytica) remains an important clinical problem in countries around the world, with 40 to 50 million people affected. Mortality rates are significant, with 40,000 to 110,000 deaths each year. In fact, amoebiasis mortality is second only to malaria as cause of death from protozoan parasites. The most common complication of amoebiasis is the formation of a pus‐filled mass inside the liver (liver abscess). Metronidazole is the drug of choice for treatment of amoebic liver abscesses followed by a luminal agent to eradicate the asymptomatic carrier state. Cure rates are 95% with disappearance of fever, pain, and anorexia within 72 to 96 hours. This review compares the standard treatment with a more invasive alternative, where pus‐filled mass is drained by image‐guided percutaneous procedure (performed through the skin). Seven low quality randomised trials were included. All the seven studies included a total of 310 patients, but due to selective outcome reporting bias, less patients could be included in our analyses. Pooled analysis of three homogenous trials showed that needle aspiration did not significantly increase the proportion of patients with fever resolution. Benefits could be observed in resolution time of pain and tenderness. No additional benefit has been found with percutaneous needle aspiration plus metronidazole versus metronidazole alone for uncomplicated amoebic liver abscesses in hastening clinical and radiologic resolution. However, this conclusion is based on trials with methodological flaws and with insufficient sample sizes, and requires further confirmation in larger well‐designed, randomised trials.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting Caused by Gastroenteritis: Diagnosis, Assessment and Management in Children Younger than 5 Years

When young children suddenly experience the onset of diarrhoea, with or without vomiting, infective gastroenteritis is by far the most common explanation. A range of enteric viruses, bacteria and protozoal pathogens may be responsible. Viral infections account for most cases in the developed world. Gastroenteritis is very common, with many infants and young children experiencing more than one episode in a year.

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Summaries for consumers

Antiamoebic drugs for treating amoebic colitis

Amoebic colitis is caused by the parasite Entamoeba histolytica. This protozoan is distributed throughout the world and is commonly acquired by ingestion of contaminated food or water. It is estimated that about 40 to 50 million people infected with E. histolytica develop amoebic colitis or extraintestinal abscesses, which result in up to 100,000 deaths per year.

Percutaneous needle aspiration does not seem to help patients with uncomplicated amoebic liver abscesses

Amoebiasis (disease caused by the protozoan Entameoba histolytica) remains an important clinical problem in countries around the world, with 40 to 50 million people affected. Mortality rates are significant, with 40,000 to 110,000 deaths each year. In fact, amoebiasis mortality is second only to malaria as cause of death from protozoan parasites. The most common complication of amoebiasis is the formation of a pus‐filled mass inside the liver (liver abscess). Metronidazole is the drug of choice for treatment of amoebic liver abscesses followed by a luminal agent to eradicate the asymptomatic carrier state. Cure rates are 95% with disappearance of fever, pain, and anorexia within 72 to 96 hours. This review compares the standard treatment with a more invasive alternative, where pus‐filled mass is drained by image‐guided percutaneous procedure (performed through the skin). Seven low quality randomised trials were included. All the seven studies included a total of 310 patients, but due to selective outcome reporting bias, less patients could be included in our analyses. Pooled analysis of three homogenous trials showed that needle aspiration did not significantly increase the proportion of patients with fever resolution. Benefits could be observed in resolution time of pain and tenderness. No additional benefit has been found with percutaneous needle aspiration plus metronidazole versus metronidazole alone for uncomplicated amoebic liver abscesses in hastening clinical and radiologic resolution. However, this conclusion is based on trials with methodological flaws and with insufficient sample sizes, and requires further confirmation in larger well‐designed, randomised trials.

Terms to know

Abscess
An enclosed collection of pus in tissues, organs, or confined spaces in the body. An abscess is a sign of infection and is usually swollen and inflamed.
Diarrhea
Frequent, loose, and watery bowel movements. Common causes include gastrointestinal infections, irritable bowel syndrome, medicines, and malabsorption.
Infection
The invasion and growth of germs in the body. The germs may be bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi, or other microorganisms.
Parasites
An animal or plant that gets nutrients by living on or in an organism of another species. A complete parasite gets all of its nutrients from the host organism, but a semi-parasite gets only some of its nutrients from the host.

More about Amebiasis

Photo of an adult

Also called: Amebic dysentery, Amebic

See Also: Gastroenteritis, Shigellosis

Other terms to know: See all 4
Abscess, Diarrhea, Infection

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