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(Entamoeba histolytica or E. histolytica infection)
What is amebiasis?
Amebiasis (am-e-BI-a-sis) is a disease caused by a one-celled parasite called Entamoeba histolytica (ent-a-ME-ba his-to-LI-ti-ka).
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 often found in travelers to and immigrants from these areas, as well as in poeple who live in institutions that have poor sanitary conditions. Men who have sex with men can also become infected.
How can I become infected with E. histolytica?
What are the symptoms of amebiasis?
Only about 10% to 20% of people who are infected with E. histolytica become sick from the infection. The symptoms often are quite mild and can include loose stools, stomach pain, and stomach cramping. Amebic dysentery is a severe form of amebiasis associated with stomach pain, bloody stools, and fever. Rarely, E. histolytica invades the liver and forms an abscess. Even less commonly, it spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain.
If I swallowed E. histolytica, how quickly would I become sick?
Only about 10% to 20% of people who are infected with E. histolytica become sick from the infection. Those people who do become sick usually develop symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks, although this may range from several weeks or longer.
What should I do if I think I have amebiasis?
See your health care provider.
How is amebiasis diagnosed?
Your health care provider will ask you to submit stool samples. Because
E. histolytica is not always found in every stool sample, you may be asked to submit several stool samples from
several different days.
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 E. histolytica 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.
I am going to travel to a country that has poor sanitary conditions. What should I eat and drink there so I will NOT become infected with E. histolytica or other such germs?
Should I be concerned about spreading infection to the rest of my household?
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 handling food.
For more information:
Ravdin JI. Amebiasis.
Clin Infect Dis 1995;20:1453-66.
This fact sheet is for information only and is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the disease described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.
This page last reviewed September 3, 2008