Amebiasis is a disease caused by a one-celled parasite called
Who is at risk for amebiasis?
Although anyone can have this disease, it is most common in
people who live in developing countries that have poor sanitary
conditions. In the United States, amebiasis is most often found in
immigrants from developing countries. It also is found in people
who have traveled to developing countries and in people who live in
institutions that have poor sanitary conditions. Men who have sex
with men can become infected and can get sick from the infection,
but they often do not have symptoms.
How can I become infected with
By putting anything into your mouth that has touched the stool
of a person who is infected with
By swallowing something, such as water or food, that is
By touching and bringing to your mouth cysts (eggs) picked up
from surfaces that are contaminated with
What are the symptoms of amebiasis?
On average, about one in 10 people who are infected with
becomes sick from the infection. The symptoms often
are quite mild and can include:
is a severe form of amebiasis associated
with stomach pain, bloody stools, and fever. Rarely,
invades the liver and forms an abscess. Even less
commonly, it spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs
If I swallowed
, how quickly would I
Usually one to four weeks later but sometimes more quickly or
more slowly. If you think you have amebiasis, see your health acre
How is amebiasis diagnosed?
Your health care provider will ask you to submit stool samples.
is not always found in every stool
sample, you may be asked to submit several stool samples from
several different days. Diagnosis of amebiasis can be very
difficult. One problem is that other parasites and cells can look
very similar to
when seen under a microscope.
Therefore, sometimes people are told that they are infected with
even though they are not.
and another amoeba,
, which is about 10 times more common, look the same when
seen under a microscope. Unlike infection with
, which sometimes makes people sick, infection with
never makes people sick and therefore does not
need to be treated. If you have been told that you are infected
but you are feeling fine, you might be
Unfortunately, most laboratories do not yet have the tests that
can tell whether a person is infected with
. Until these tests become more widely
available, it usually is best to assume that the parasite is
. A blood test is also available. However, the test
is recommended only when your health care provider thinks that your
infection has invaded the wall of the intestine (gut) or some other
organ of your body, such as the liver. One problem is that the
blood test may still be positive if you had amebiasis in the past,
even if you are no longer infected now.
How is amebiasis treated?
Several antibiotics are available to treat amebiasis. Treatment
must be prescribed by a physician. You will be treated with only
one antibiotic if your
infection has not made
you sick. You probably will be treated with two antibiotics (first
one and then the other) if your infection has made you sick.
Eating and drinking in a country with poor sanitary
If you are going to travel to a country that has poor sanitary
Drink only bottled or boiled (for 1 minute) water or carbonated
(bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles.
Do not drink fountain drinks or any drinks with ice cubes.
Another way to make water safe is by filtering it through an
"absolute 1 micron or less" filter and dissolving iodine tablets in
the filtered water. "Absolute 1 micron" filters can be found in
camping/outdoor supply stores.
Do not eat fresh fruit or vegetables that you did not peel
Do not eat or drink milk, cheese, or dairy products that may
not have been pasteurized.
Do not eat or drink anything sold by street vendors.
Should I be concerned about spreading infection to the rest of
Yes. However, the risk of spreading infection is low if the
infected person is treated with antibiotics and practices good
personal hygiene. This includes thorough hand washing with soap and
water after using the toilet, after changing diapers, and before
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, March 2001
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a