Amoebiasis

7 mins read

Introduction
Amoebiasis, also spelled as ‘amebiasis’, is an infection caused by the parasite Entamoeba histolytica (often abbreviated to E. histolytica). This amoeba lives in the digestive system, particularly in the colon. The growth of amoeba in the system can cause abdominal pains, diarrhea or constipation, or a combination of all three.

Nine out of ten people infected with the parasite do not develop any symptoms. While the disease can be treated with antiprotozoals or other drugs, the infection can be fatal to babies and older people. Amoebiasis kills 70,000 people worldwide annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), so it is important to know the symptoms, its treatment and prevention.

Causes
The main culprit for amoebiasis is E. histolytica, a protozoa that can come from feces, which can be transmitted through eating and drinking contaminated food and water. There are at least six species of Entamoeba that can infect the human gut but only E. histolytica causes disease. This amoeba is more common in tropical climates and developing countries, or places where there are unsanitary or crowded conditions.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal Pain: People with amoebiasis often feel abdominal pains, which can happen at anytime and can last for the duration of the illness. The abdominal pain increases as the amoeba grows. Lower abdominal pain is the most common type of pain, and it indicates that the infection is taking place in the intestines. The second kind of abdominal pain occurs in the upper part of the abdomen, and indicates that the infection is in the liver.
  • Diarrhea: The feces or stool that is passed by people with amoebiasis will smell different—usually fouler smelling. There may also be some blood or mucus in the feces.
  • Constipation: After several days of diarrhea, a person with amoebiasis may become constipated. Abdominal pains will continue as the person will often feel the need for a bowel movement, but will be unable to do so, or will pass only mucus and blood. After several days of constipation, diarrhea may follow.
  • Fever: Another symptom of amoebiasis is fever.
  • No Appetite: People with amoebiasis may have less appetite and can often be nauseous and weak.

Transmission

  • Contaminated Water: Drinking water that is contaminated by feces or an unsanitary source can cause amoebiasis. Tap water can be contaminated by E. histolytica when there are leaks in the water pipes.
  • Contaminated Food: Food handled by unclean hands or hands that have been soiled by a bowel movement can be contaminated by E. histolytica. Flies and other insects can also be carriers of the parasite.
  • Contaminated Soil: Vegetables planted in soil contaminated with feces can carry E. histolytica.
  • Incorrect Hand Washing: Children are particularly susceptible to the parasite if they put their hands in their mouths after a bowel movement and before thoroughly washing with soap and water.
  • Anal Or Anal-Oral Sex: Any sexual activity, e.g. rimming, anal sex, where fecal to mouth contamination can occur can lead to the spread of E. histolytica. To cut risk of infection, wash with soap and water or use a barrier such as a dental dam or household plastic wrap during oral-anal contact.

Treatment

  • Medication– Amoebiasis is usually treated with medication, such as antiprotozoals (killing tiny one-celled animals) like Iodoquinol. Prescription medications are the first line of treatment for persons who are infected by intestinal amoebiasis.
  • Surgery– If antibiotics are unsuccessful, surgery may be necessary. Surgery is only used in serious cases, e.g. if the amoebiasis has infected the liver.
  • Herbal Medications– There are some herbal medications that can be used for treating amoebiasis. These treatments can be used for light to moderate cases of amoebiasis. They should not be used if the parasite has spread to the liver.
  • Turmeric: Scientifically known as Curcuma longa, turmeric stimulates the liver to produce bile, which can help deal with digestive problems caused by the parasite.

Alternative Therapies

  • The main objective behind treating amoebiasis is to inhibit the growth of the parasite. Certain herbs, fruits, vegetables and spices exhibit anti-microbial activity which can help in kicking the parasite out of your system.
  • Fruits like apricots [1], guava [2,3]and bael fruit all have anti-parasitic properties which help in emptying the parasite out of the body. These fruits work by not only eliminating the parasites but also destroying the eggs of these microscopic worms from the intestines.
  • Drumsticks, beetroot and pumpkin help to cleanse the system by flushing toxic waste of the worms and also the eggs of the parasites causing it. Garlic, oregano, turmeric and neem (margosa leaves) all contain anti-parasitic elements that help to curb and destroy the parasite. The anti-inflammatory property of turmeric not only helps in detoxifying the system and killing the parasites but also reduces the swelling caused to the intestines by the parasitic infection. [4,5,6]
  • Yoga can be beneficial in amoebiasis to the effect that it can help in strengthening the immune system to fight the infection and also clear the infected intestines. Detox practices such as Shankhaprakshalana can help in clearing the intestines and get rid of pathogens. [7]
  • Some asanas help in improving blood flow to abdominal organs, like Vajrasana (Adamantine or Diamond Pose), Halasana (Plough pose), Makarasana (The Crocodile Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Pranayama (Deep Breathing) helps in relaxing the stomach contents and increases the required amount of oxygen to the stomach thereby providing relief from amoebiasis related diarrhea. [8]

Prevention

  • Wash Hands Thoroughly– Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, changing a diaper, and before food preparation and eating. Make sure to wash your nails and cuticles too. Turn off the tap with a paper towel.
  • Potty Sanitization– If a potty is used, wear gloves when you handle it, dispose of the contents into a toilet, then wash the potty with hot water and detergent and leave it to dry.
  • Be Careful Where You Eat–Make sure you are eating at a safe restaurant, especially if you are traveling to a tropical or less developed country. Do not order drinks with ice in them unless you are certain that the water is safe.
  • Wash Cooking Utensils Thoroughly–Sanitation in the kitchen is a key defense against this disease. Make sure that food is cooked well and any cooking equipment is thoroughly cleaned.
  • Don’t Share Personal Items–If you have the illness,don’t share flannels, clothes or towels, prepare or serve others food. Stay off work for the duration of the illness. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching others.

Conclusion
Amoebiasis is a parasitic infection that can be fatal, especially for babies and older people. Although more common in tropical and developing countries, it also occurs in the west. Amoebiasis can be treated with antiprotozoals or other drugs. Good sanitation practices are key to prevention.

 

References
1. Haldavnekar RV, Tekur P, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR. Effect of yogic colon cleansing (Laghu Sankhaprakshalana Kriya) on pain, spinal flexibility, disability and state anxiety in chronic low back pain. Int J Yoga. 2014 Jul;7(2):111-9. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.133884. PubMed PMID: 25035620; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4097895.

2. Taneja I, Deepak KK, Poojary G, Acharya IN, Pandey RM, Sharma MP. Yogic versus conventional treatment in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: arandomized control study. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2004 Mar;29(1):19-33.PubMed PMID: 15077462.

3. Goncagul G, Ayaz E. Antimicrobial effect of garlic (Allium sativum). Recent Pat Antiinfect Drug Discov. 2010 Jan;5(1):91-3. Review. PubMed PMID: 19929845.

4. FEFER IM, MINDLIN MZ, PROKOPOVICH NN. [Anthelmintic properties of Cucurbita seeds]. Farmakol Toksikol. 1954 Sep-Oct;17(5):50-1. Russian. PubMed PMID: 13210430.

5. Ghonmode WN, Balsaraf OD, Tambe VH, Saujanya KP, Patil AK, Kakde DD. Comparison of the antibacterial efficiency of neem leaf extracts, grape seed extracts and 3% sodium hypochlorite against E. feacalis – An in vitro study. J Int Oral Health. 2013 Dec;5(6):61-6. Epub 2013 Dec 26. PubMed PMID: 24453446; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3895719.

6. Goncagul G, Ayaz E. Antimicrobial effect of garlic (Allium sativum). Recent Pat Antiinfect Drug Discov. 2010 Jan;5(1):91-3. Review. PubMed PMID: 19929845.

7. Taneja I, Deepak KK, Poojary G, Acharya IN, Pandey RM, Sharma MP. Yogic versus conventional treatment in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: arandomized control study. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2004 Mar;29(1):19-33.PubMed PMID: 15077462.

8. Haldavnekar RV, Tekur P, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR. Effect of yogic colon cleansing (Laghu Sankhaprakshalana Kriya) on pain, spinal flexibility, disability and state anxiety in chronic low back pain. Int J Yoga. 2014 Jul;7(2):111-9. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.133884. PubMed PMID: 25035620; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4097895

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