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What Is Amebiasis?

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How is amebiasis diagnosed? continued...

If you have been told that you are infected with E. histolytica but you are feeling fine, you might be infected with E. dispar instead. Unfortunately, most laboratories do not yet have the tests that can tell whether a person is infected with E. histolytica or with E. dispar. Until these tests become more widely available, it usually is best to assume that the parasite is E. histolytica.

A blood test is also available. However, the test is recommended only when your health care provider thinks that your infection has invaded the wall of the intestine (gut) or some other organ of your body, such as the liver. One problem is that the blood test may still be positive if you had amebiasis in the past, even if you are no longer infected now.

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?

  • Drink only bottled or boiled (for 1 minute) water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Do not drink fountain drinks or any drinks with ice cubes. Another way to make water safe is by filtering it through an "absolute 1 micron or less" filter and dissolving iodine tablets in the filtered water. "Absolute 1 micron" filters can be found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Do not eat fresh fruit or vegetables that you did not peel yourself.
  • Do not eat or drink milk, cheese, or dairy products that may not have been pasteurized.
  • Do not eat or drink anything sold by street vendors.

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.

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