Amoebic dysentery

Entamoeba histolytica

Dysentery (both bacterial and amoebic) has long been known as the 'handmaiden' of war and was the companion of many soldiers and POWs in southern Asia during the Second World War.

Amoebic dysentery is found worldwide but is most prevalent in tropical developing countries with less than optimal sanitation systems. 

Travellers can return home with an unexpected souvenir in the form of traveller's diarrhoea (amoebiasis). This form of dysentery is the third leading cause of death in humans following malaria and the blood fluke disease, schistosomiasis.

The feeding stages of the amoeba (trophozoite) live in our large intestine and form cysts, which are passed in the faeces. People become infected when they swallow these cysts, often through food or water contaminated with human faecal matter.

The feeding forms can disrupt the lining of the intestine and cause diarrhoea (which may contain blood), stomach cramps and fever. In severe cases the gut wall can be perforated causing peritonitis. Symptoms and signs are most obvious in young to middle aged adults.

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