Amoebiasis, or Amebiasis is caused by the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica. It is an intestinal infection that may or may not be symptomatic and can be present in an infected person for several years. It is estimated that it causes 70,000 deaths per year world wide. Symptoms, when present, can range from mild diarrhea to dysentery with blood and mucus in the stool.
When symptoms are present it is generally known as invasive amoebiasis and occurs in two major forms. Invasion of the intestinal lining causes “amoebic dysentery” or “amoebic colitis”. If the parasite reaches the bloodstream it can spread through the body, most frequently ending up in the liver where it causes “amoebic liver abscesses”. When no symptoms are present, the infected individual is still a carrier, able to spread the parasite to others through poor hygienic practices. While symptoms at onset can be similar to Bacillary dysentery, amoebiasis is not bacteriological in origin and treatments differ, although both infections can be prevented by good sanitary practices.
Amoebiasis is usually transmitted by contamination of drinking water and foods with feces, but it can also be transmitted indirectly through contact with dirty hands or objects as well as by anal-oral contact.
Infection is spread through ingestion of the cyst form of the parasite, a resistant structure that is found in stools. There may also be free amoebae, or trophozoites, that do not form cysts but these die quickly after leaving the body and are only rarely the source of new infections. Since amoebiasis is transmitted through contaminated food and water, it is often endemic in the poorer regions of the world due to less well developed waste disposal systems and untreated water supplies.
Contact with contaminated water, for example by washing or brushing your teeth in water from a contaminated source, or ingesting vegetables washed in such water, can lead to infection as well.
Amoebic dysentery is often confused with “traveler’s diarrhea”, or “Montezuma’s Revenge” in Mexico, because of the prevalence of both in developing nations, but in fact most traveler’s diarrhea is bacterial or viral in origin. Liver abscesses can occur without previous development of amoebic dysentery.
Prevention for Amoebiasis
To help prevent the spread of amoebiasis around the home :
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot running water for at least 10 seconds after using the toilet or changing a baby’s diaper, and before handling food.
- Clean bathrooms and toilets often; pay particular attention to toilet seats and taps.
- Avoid sharing towels or face washers.
To help prevent infection:
- Avoid raw vegetables when in endemic areas, as they may have been fertilized using human feces.
- Boil water or treat with iodine tablets.
Nature of the disease
Most infected people, perhaps 90%, are asymptomatic, but this disease has the potential to make the sufferer dangerously ill. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that about 70,000 people die annually worldwide.
Infections can sometimes last for years. Symptoms take from a few days to a few weeks to develop and manifest themselves, but usually it is about two to four weeks. Symptoms can range from mild diarrhea to dysentery with blood and mucus. The blood comes from amoebae invading the lining of the intestine. In about 10% of invasive cases the amoebae enter the bloodstream and may travel to other organs in the body. Most commonly this means the liver, as this is where blood from the intestine reaches first, but they can end up almost anywhere.
Onset time is highly variable and the average asymptomatic infection persists for over a year. It is theorized that the absence of symptoms or their intensity may vary with such factors as strain of amoeba, immune response of the host, and perhaps associated bacteria and viruses.
In asymptomatic infections the amoeba lives by eating and digesting bacteria and food particles in the gut, a part of the gastrointestinal tract. It does not usually come in contact with the intestine itself due to the protective layer of mucus that lines the gut. Disease occurs when amoeba comes in contact with the cells lining the intestine. It then secretes the same substances it uses to digest bacteria, which include enzymes that destroy cell membranes and proteins. This process can lead to penetration and digestion of human tissues, resulting first in flask-shaped ulcers in the intestine. Entamoeba histolytica ingests the destroyed cells by phagocytosis and is often seen with red blood cells inside when viewed in stool samples. Especially in Latin America, a granulomatous mass (known as an amoeboma) may form in the wall of the ascending colon or rectum due to long-lasting cellular response, and is sometimes confused with cancer.
Theoretically, the ingestion of one viable cyst can cause an infection.
Diagnosis of human illness for Amoebiasis
Asymptomatic human infections are usually diagnosed by finding cysts shed in the stool. Various flotation or sedimentation procedures have been developed to recover the cysts from fecal matter and stains help to visualize the isolated cysts for microscopic examination. Since cysts are not shed constantly, a minimum of three stools should be examined. In symptomatic infections, the motile form (the trophozoite) can often be seen in fresh feces. Serological tests exist and most individuals (whether with symptoms or not) will test positive for the presence of antibodies. The levels of antibody are much higher in individuals with liver abscesses. Serology only becomes positive about two weeks after infection. More recent developments include a kit that detects the presence of ameba proteins in the feces and another that detects ameba DNA in feces. These tests are not in widespread use due to their expense.
Microscopy is still by far the most widespread method of diagnosis around the world. However it is not as sensitive or accurate in diagnosis as the other tests available. It is important to distinguish the E. histolytica cyst from the cysts of nonpathogenic intestinal protozoa such as Entamoeba coli by its appearance. E. histolytica cysts have a maximum of four nuclei, while the commensal Entamoeba coli cyst has up to 8 nuclei. Additionally, in E. histolytica, the endosome is centrally located in the nucleus, while it is usually off-center in Entamoeba coli. Finally, chromatoidal bodies in E. histolytica cysts are rounded, while they are jagged in Entamoeba coli. However, other species, Entamoeba dispar and E. moshkovskii, are also commensals and cannot be distinguished from E. histolytica under the microscope. As E. dispar is much more common than E. histolytica in most parts of the world this means that there is a lot of incorrect diagnosis of E. histolytica infection taking place. The WHO recommends that infections diagnosed by microscopy alone should not be treated if they are asymptomatic and there is no other reason to suspect that the infection is actually E. histolytica.
Relative frequency of the disease
In older textbooks it is often stated that 10% of the world’s population is infected with Entamoeba histolytica. It is now known that at least 90% of these infections are due to E. dispar. Nevertheless, this means that there are up to 50 million true E. histolytica infections and approximately seventy thousand die each year, mostly from liver abscesses or other complications. Although usually considered a tropical parasite, the first case reported (in 1875) was actually in St Petersburg in Russia, near the Arctic Circle. Infection is more common in warmer areas, but this is both because of poorer hygiene and the parasitic cysts surviving longer in warm moist conditions.
Treatment of Amoebiasis
E. histolytica infections occur in both the intestine and (in people with symptoms) in tissue of the intestine and/or liver. As a result two different sorts of drugs are needed to rid the body of the infection, one for each location. Metronidazole, or a related drug such as Tinidazole, Secnidazole or Ornidazole, is used to destroy amebae that have invaded tissue. These are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the site of infection. Because they are rapidly absorbed there is almost none remaining in the intestine. Since most of the amebae remain in the intestine when tissue invasion occurs, it is important to get rid of those also or the patient will be at risk of developing another case of invasive disease. Several drugs are available for treating intestinal infections, the most effective of which has been shown to be Paromomycin (also known as Humatin); Diloxanide Furoate (also known as Furamide) is used in the US and Iodoquinol (also known as Yodoxin) is used in certain other countries. Both tissue and lumenal drugs must be used to treat infections, with Metronidazole usually being given first, followed by Paromomycin or Diloxanide. E. dispar does not require treatment, but many laboratories (even in the developed world) do not have the facilities to distinguish this from E. histolytica.
For amebic dysentery a multi-prong approach must be used, starting with one of:
- Metronidazole 500-750mg three times a day for 5-10 days
- Tinidazole 2g once a day for 3 days is an alternative to metronidazole
In addition to the above, one of the following luminal amebicides should be prescribed as an adjunctive treatment, either concurrently or sequentially, to destroy E. histolytica in the colon:
- Paromomycin 500mg three times a day for 10 days
- Diloxanide furoate 500mg three times a day for 10 days
- Iodoquinol 650mg three times a day for 20 days
For amebic liver abscess:
- Metronidazole 400mg three times a day for 10 days
- Tinidazole 2g once a day for 6 days is an alternative to metronidazole
- Diloxanide furoate 500mg three times a day for 10 days (or one of the other lumenal amebicides above) must always be given afterwards
Doses for children are calculated by body weight and a pharmacist should be consulted for help.
Herbal treatments of Amoebiasis
In Mexico, it is common to use herbal tinctures of chaparro amargo (Castela texana). 30 drops are taken in a small glass of water first thing in the morning, and 30 drops before the last meal of the day, for seven days straight. After taking a seven day break from the treatment, it is resumed for seven days. Some mild cramping may be felt; it is claimed this means that the amoebas are dying and will be expelled from the body. Many Mexicans use the chaparro amargo treatment regularly, three times a year. The efficacy of such treatments has not been scientifically proven.
A 1998 study in Africa suggests that 2 tablespoons per week of papaya seeds may have some antiamoebic action and aid in prevention of amoebiasis, but this remains unconfirmed. Papaya fruit and seeds are often considered beneficial to digestion in areas where this plant is common.
Complications for Amoebiasis
In the majority of cases, amoebas remain in the gastrointestinal tract of the hosts. Severe ulceration of the gastrointestinal mucosal surfaces occurs in less than 16% of cases. In fewer cases, the parasite invades the soft tissues, most commonly the liver. Only rarely are masses formed (amoebomas) that lead to intestinal obstruction.
Entamoeba histolytica infection is associated with malnutrition and stunting of growth.
Populations at risk
All people are believed to be susceptible to infection and there is no evidence that individuals with a damaged or undeveloped immunity may suffer more severe forms of the disease.
E. histolytica cysts may be recovered from contaminated food by methods similar to those used for recovering Giardia lamblia cysts from feces. Filtration is probably the most practical method for recovery from drinking water and liquid foods. E. histolytica cysts must be distinguished from cysts of other parasitic (but nonpathogenic) protozoa and from cysts of free-living protozoa as discussed above. Recovery procedures are not very accurate; cysts are easily lost or damaged beyond recognition, which leads to many falsely negative results in recovery tests.
The most dramatic incident the USA was the Chicago World’s Fair outbreak in 1933 caused by contaminated drinking water; defective plumbing permitted sewage to contaminate water. There were 1,000 cases (with 58 deaths). In 1998 there was an [outbreak] of amoebiasis in the Republic of Georgia. One hundred and seventy-seven cases were reported between 26 May and 3 September 1998, including 71 cases of intestinal amoebiasis and 106 probable cases of liver abscess. In recent times, food handlers are suspected of causing many scattered infections.
Homeopathy Treatment for Amoebiasis
Keywords: homeopathy, homeopathic, treatment, cure, remedy, remedies, medicine
Homeopathy treats the person as a whole. It means that homeopathic treatment focuses on the patient as a person, as well as his pathological condition. The homeopathic medicines are selected after a full individualizing examination and case-analysis, which includes the medical history of the patient, physical and mental constitution, family history, presenting symptoms, underlying pathology, possible causative factors etc. A miasmatic tendency (predisposition/susceptibility) is also often taken into account for the treatment of chronic conditions. A homeopathy doctor tries to treat more than just the presenting symptoms. The focus is usually on what caused the disease condition? Why ‘this patient’ is sick ‘this way’. The disease diagnosis is important but in homeopathy, the cause of disease is not just probed to the level of bacteria and viruses. Other factors like mental, emotional and physical stress that could predispose a person to illness are also looked for. No a days, even modern medicine also considers a large number of diseases as psychosomatic. The correct homeopathy remedy tries to correct this disease predisposition. The focus is not on curing the disease but to cure the person who is sick, to restore the health. If a disease pathology is not very advanced, homeopathy remedies do give a hope for cure but even in incurable cases, the quality of life can be greatly improved with homeopathic medicines.
The homeopathic remedies (medicines) given below indicate the therapeutic affinity but this is not a complete and definite guide to the homeopathy treatment of this condition. The symptoms listed against each homeopathic remedy may not be directly related to this disease because in homeopathy general symptoms and constitutional indications are also taken into account for selecting a remedy. To study any of the following remedies in more detail, please visit the Materia Medica section at Hpathy.
None of these medicines should be taken without professional advice and guidance.
Homeopathy Remedies for Amoebiasis :
Acon., aeth., aloe., alst., alumn., ambro., ant-t., apis., arg-n., arn., ars., ars-i., asc-t., bapt., bar-m., bell., bry., bufo., canth., caps., carb-ac., carb-s., carb-v., caust., cham., chap.,chin., chin-a., cinnb., cist., clem., colch., coll., coloc., con., cop., corn., crot-c., crot-h., crot-t., cub., cuph., cupr., cupr-ar., dirc., dulc., elat., erig., aucal., ferr-p., gamb., gels., ham., hep., ign., iod., ip., iris., kali-bi., kali-chl., kali-m., kali-p., lach., lept., lil-t., lyc., lyss., mag-c., mag-m., mag-p., manc., merc., merc-c., merc-cy., merc-d., merc-sul., mill., mur-ac., nit-ac., nux-m., nux-v., op., ox-ac., petr., phos., phyt., plb., psor., puls., raph., rheum., rhod., rhus-t., sec., silphu., staph., sulph., sul-ac., tanac., ter., tril., trom., vac., verat., xan., xanth., zinc., zinc-s., zing.
- ^ Day, David W.; Basil C. Morson, Jeremy R. Jass, Geraint Williams, Ashley B. Price (2003-01). Morson and Dawson’s Gastrointestinal Pathology. Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated. ISBN 9780632042043.
- ^ Mondal D, Petri Jr WA, Sack RB, et al. (2006). “Entamoeba histolytica-associated diarreal illness is negatively associated with the growth of preschool shildren: evidence from a prospective study”. Trans R Soc Trop Med H 100 (11): 1032–38. doi:10.1016/j.trstmh.2005.12.012.
- ^ “FDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual“. Retrieved on 2008-03-26.