Amebiasis (am-uh-BYE-eh-sis) is an infection of the intestines with a parasite
called Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica). The parasite is an
amoeba (uh-MEE-buh), a single-celled organism. People can get this parasite by eating
or drinking something that's contaminated with it.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Amebiasis?
In many cases, the parasite that causes amebiasis lives in a person's large intestine
without causing any symptoms. Other times, it causes:
In rare cases, it can spread into other organs such as the liver, lungs, and brain.
For some people, symptoms of amebiasis can begin within days to weeks of swallowing
contaminated food or water. For others, symptoms can take months to appear.
How Does Amebiasis Spread?
Amebiasis is contagious. People with amoebas in their intestines can pass the infection
to others through stool (poop) even if they have no symptoms. When infected stool
contaminates food or water supplies, amebiasis can spread quickly to many people at
once. This is especially true in developing countries, where drinking water may be
Amebiasis also can spread between people when hands aren't washed well, contaminated
objects are shared, and by sexual contact.
Amebiasis usually happens in areas where living conditions are crowded and unsanitary.
The illness is common in parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia. It is rare in the
United States, but is sometimes seen in people who have immigrated from or traveled
to countries where amebiasis is more common.
How Can Amebiasis Be Prevented?
Because amoebas may contaminate food and water, you can help prevent the illness
by being careful about what you eat and drink, especially in developing countries.
In those areas, a good rule regarding food is to cook it, boil it, peel it, or forget
it. Ice can also be contaminated and should be avoided in these countries.
Everyone should wash
their hands well after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.
How Is Amebiasis Treated?
Doctors can treat amebiasis with
. Some people need more treatment, such as extra fluids.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call your doctor if anyone in your family has signs or symptoms of amebiasis, such
diarrhea with blood or mucus
diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 weeks
a swollen belly
pain or tenderness in the area of the liver (below the ribs on the right side)
This is especially important if you have recently traveled to a part of the world
where amebiasis is common. Also call the doctor if your child has diarrhea and shows
signs of being dehydrated,
such as a dry or sticky mouth, peeing less than usual, no tears when crying, dizziness,