Amoebiasis is a disease caused by a one-celled parasite. It is found most commonly in Mexico, South America, India and South and West Africa. The parasite is harbored in the human intestinal tract and is passed along by contamination of food and water or by anal or anal/oral sex.
The commonest form of amoebic disease is diarrhea and dysentery. The symptoms usually appear some weeks or months after exposure and tend to be chronic, lasting weeks rather than days. Typically, one has very gassy, loose stools along with abdominal bloating, loss of appetite and abdominal cramps. Diarrhea can be quite severe and even progress to bloody dysentery. There may also be fever, fatigue, depression and a general feeling of malaise. This especially true if the disease has spread to the liver. Periods of illness may alternate with periods of feeling relatively well.
Prevention is by careful hand washing, avoidance of potentially contaminated food and water, and safe sexual practices.
Diagnosis of the disease is usually by a careful stool examination by well-trained personnel and by certain blood antibody tests.
Treatment must be aimed at both the intestinal and extra-intestinal (e.g. liver) forms. Most medications will not hit both forms so a combination of antibiotics, such as iodoquin and metronidazole is needed. Both of these medications are considered somewhat unsafe in pregnancy so treatment during pregnancy may be limited to simply treating the symptoms.
There are other forms of amoebiasis caused by swimming in contaminated ponds or by exposure to monkeys. These forms can infect the brain and cause death. They are very rare, however, and are not part of what is commonly known as amoebiasis.