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Amebiasis and Travel

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We have decided to start using some of the work that has been put into some of our education modules, traveler/patient hand-outs and internal training material here on the blog. So there is going to be a new feature of a brief examination of a disease, condition or piece on travel health a lot more frequently. To get this started I have selected Amebiasis mainly because it starts with the letter “A”.


Condition: A parasitic infection that often affects the gastro-intestinal tract causing diarrhea; may spread to other organs of the body (liver) to form abscesses

Infectious Agent: Entamoeba histolytica, a protozoan parasite

Signs and Symptoms: Crampy, water and sometimes bloody diarrhea; weight loss; 1/3 of patients have a fever; asymptomatic infections may be seen

Diagnosis: PCR testing is standard; microscopically indistinguishable from E. dispar which is non-pathogenic

Transmission: Fecal-oral route such as eating or drinking fecally contaminated products

Treatment: Metronidazole followed by iodoquinol or paromomycin

Prevention: Food and water precautions including ice and frequent handwashings; avoidance of fecal exposure during sexual activity; there is no vaccine against amebiasis and prophylactic medicine is not advised

Epidemiology: Found worldwide, especially in the tropics; more common in areas of poor sanitation; most commonly seen in travelers returning from South America, South Asia and the Middle East; Long-term travelers (>6 months) are considered higher risk than shorter-term travelers; only 10-20% of infected patients become symptomatic

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