Amoebiasis is a disease that is caused by a single-celled parasite called the Entamoeba histolytica. It is generally common in tropical countries which do not have good sanitation. This disease may be acquired if a person is traveling to tropical locations which have poor sanitation, if the person lives in an institution with poor sanitary conditions such as in prisons, if a man has sex with another man and if the immune system of a person is weak or if that person is afflicted with any other medical condition.
Amoebiasis which is caused by Entamoeba histolytica protozoan enters the human body when a person ingests cysts through water or food. Direct contact with faeces may also cause a person to acquire this disease. The microscopic cysts generally remain in an inactive form in the soil or in the environment after they are deposited in faeces. The cysts affect the human population when food handlers transmit them while handling or preparing food. Other modes of transmission include colonic irrigation, anal or oral sex. The cysts, upon entering the human body, release an invasive parasite called a trophozite in the digestive tract and they reproduce there. They further migrate to the large intestine and may finally lodge themselves in the intestinal wall or the colon. At this juncture, the person becomes infected with the disease.
A person is provided treatment for amoebiasis after he/she has been diagnosed by a registered medical practitioner. The doctor may look at the health as well as the travel history of the concerned individual. Tests may have to be conducted to detect the presence of E. histolytica. Stool samples may require to be tested to screen for the presence of the cysts. Liver function tests may also be recommended in order to find out if the amoeba has damaged the liver or not. However, an ultrasound or CT scan may be recommended to check for the parasites if they have spread beyond the intestines. A colonoscopy may be required to detect the presence of parasites in the large intestines.
There are several antibiotics available that can treat amoebiasis. Doctors generally recommend a 10-day course of metronidazole that can be taken as a capsule.
Sometimes a person may suffer from nausea if he/she is affected with this parasite. In that case, a doctor may recommend medication to deal with this. However if the parasite has permeated into the intestinal tissues, the treatment must take care of the infected organs as well as the organism. A person may also require undergoing surgery if there are perforations in the colon or the peritoneal tissues.
A person is eligible for treatment after a person has been diagnosed to be suffering from the illness. After the trophozites breach the intestinal walls and enter the bloodstream, they travel to different internal organs like the heart, lungs, brain, liver and other organs. When this happens, a person may suffer from abscesses, infections, severe illness and even death. A person may suffer from amebic dysentery if the parasite invades the lining of the intestine. A person suffering from some or all of these symptoms is eligible for treatment.
A doctor may advise certain tests to understand whether a person is suffering from amoebiasis or not. Normally testing of stool samples and liver function tests are advised. A doctor may also recommend other tests like ultrasound or CT scan to check for lesions on the liver. A colonoscopy may also be recommended. A person who has not been diagnosed to be suffering from this disease is not eligible for treatment.
The most common side-effects that a person will suffer from after consuming metronidazole are: vomiting, heartburn, metallic taste in the mouth, loss of appetite, diarrhea, cramps in the abdomen, vaginal discharge, constipation, heartburn and yeast infection. However, serious side-effects may include development of cancer, meningitis, seizures, severe allergic reactions and encephalopathy.
Some of the post-treatment guidelines that a person may follow to deal with amoebiasis are: washing fruits and vegetables before eating, avoiding ice cubes or fountain drinks, avoid unpasteurized dairy products like milk and cheese, avoid junk food and street food and also avoid consuming fruits and vegetables without washing or peeling them. A person should thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after using the washroom and before consuming food.
A person normally responds well to treatment and generally gets cured within a period of 2 weeks. A person who is suffering from a serious case of amoebiasis will require treatment for a longer period of time. However, the treatment generally comprises of a 10-day course of a medication and people usually respond positively.
A pack of 10 tablets of metronidazole cost around Rs 650. Colonoscopy, that is used to diagnose amoebiasis, may be expensive and can cost up to Rs 100000. People suffering from a serious case of amoebiasis will require treatment for a longer period of time and this will also cost more.
People generally get affected with amoebiasis due to being in unhygienic conditions or by leading an unhealthy lifestyle. So medications may help to deal with the condition. But it does not guarantee a permanent treatment as he/she can again get affected by the E.histolytica protozoan if he/she visits an unhygienic place or eats unhealthy food.