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Br J Biomed Sci. 1999;56(4):293-306.

Dientamoeba fragilis: the unflagellated human flagellate.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.


Dientamoeba fragilis is a pathogenic protozoan parasite with a world-wide distribution. Although originally described as an amoeboid organism, it has been reclassified as a flagellate, on the basis of a number of electron microscopic and immunological findings. Except for its lack of a flagellum, D. fragilis closely resembles Histomonas and Trichomonas. Interestingly, a resistant cyst stage has not been demonstrated and it is unlikely that its trophozoites can survive successfully outside the human host. As a consequence of its higher than anticipated coincidence of infection with Enterobius vermicularis, transmission may occur via ova of this pinworm. D. fragilis infection may be acute or chronic, and has been reported in both children and adults. The most common clinical symptoms include abdominal pain, persistent diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss and flatulence. Occasionally, eosinophilia, urticaria and pruritus have been described. Demonstration of the characteristic nuclear structure of D. fragilis, needed for a definitive diagnosis, cannot be achieved in unstained faecal material; therefore, permanently stained smears are essential. Treatment is recommended in symptomatic cases, and iodoquinol, tetracycline and metronidazole have been used successfully.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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