Amebiasis


Article Author:
Hassam Zulfiqar
George Mathew


Article Editor:
Shawn Horrall


Editors In Chief:
Kranthi Sitammagari
Mayank Singhal


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Kyle Blair
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Erin Hughes
Patrick Le
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Hassam Zulfiqar
Navid Mahabadi
Hussain Sajjad
Steve Bhimji
Muhammad Hashmi
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Sarosh Vaqar
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Daniyal Ameen
Altif Muneeb
Beenish Sohail
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Komal Shaheen
Sandeep Sekhon


Updated:
9/5/2019 3:56:02 PM

Introduction

Amebiasis or amoebic dysentery is a common parasitic enteral infection. It is caused by any of the amoebas of the Entamoeba group. Amoebiasis may present with no symptoms or mild to severe symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bloody diarrhea. Severe complications may include inflammation and perforation resulting in peritonitis. People affected may develop anemia.[1][2][3]

If the parasite reaches the bloodstream, it can spread through the body and end up in the liver causing amoebic liver abscesses. Liver abscesses can occur without previous diarrhea. Diagnosis is typically by stool examination using a microscope. An increased WBC count may be present. The most accurate test is specific antibodies in the blood.

Prevention of amoebiasis is by improved sanitation. Two treatment options are possible, depending on the location. Amoebiasis in tissue is treated with metronidazole, tinidazole, nitazoxanide, dehydroemetine or chloroquine. A luminal infection is treated with diloxanide furoate or iodoquinoline. Effective treatment may require a combination of medications. Infections without symptoms require treatment, but infected individuals can spread the parasite to others.

Amoebiasis is present all over the world. Each year, about 40,000 to 110,000 people die from amoebiasis infection.

E. histolytica is classified as a category B biodefense organism because of its environmental stability, low infectious disease, ease of dissemination, resistance to chlorine, and easy spread through contaminated food products. Besides the GI tract, E. histolytica can affect many organ systems.

Etiology

The protozoan Entamoeba histolytica causes amebiasis. There are three species of intestinal amoebas. Entamoeba histolytica causes most symptomatic diseases. Entamoeba dispar is nonpathogenic, and Entamoeba moshkovskii is reported increasingly, but its pathogenicity is unclear. These organisms are spread via the oral-fecal route. The infected cysts are often found in contaminated food and water. Rare cases of sexual spread have also been reported.

Epidemiology

Amebiasis occurs worldwide but predominantly is seen in developing countries due to decreased sanitation and increased fecal contamination of water supplies. Globally, approximately 50 million people contract the infection, with over 100,000 deaths due to amebiasis reported annually. The principal source of infection is ingestion of water or food contaminated by feces containing E. histolytica cysts. Hence, travelers to developing countries can acquire amebiasis when visiting the endemic region. Those who are institutionalized or immunocompromised are also at risk. The organism E. histolytica is viable for prolonged periods in the cystic form in the environment. It can also be acquired after direct inoculation of the rectum, from anal or oral sex, or from equipment used for colonic irrigation. Despite the global public health burden, there are no vaccines or prophylactic medications to prevent amebiasis.[4]

Pathophysiology

E. histolytica is a pseudopod-forming, protozoal parasite that causes proteolysis and tissue lysis. Humans are the natural hosts. Amoebic infection occurs by ingestion of mature cysts in fecally-contaminated food or water or from the hands. Excystation of the mature cysts occurs in the small intestine and trophozoites are released; the trophozoites then move to the large intestine. The trophozoites increase by binary fission and produce cysts. Both stages pass in the feces. The cysts can survive days to weeks in the external environment because of the protection provided by the cyst wall. The cyst is responsible for further transmission of the parasite. Ingestion of only a small number of organisms can cause disease.

Histopathology

Histology of the intestinal infection is nonspecific. It usually reveals discrete ulcers, mucosal thickening, and edematous mucosa. Sometimes flask-shaped ulcers may be seen in the submucosal layers. In some patients, flask-shaped ulcers are seen.

History and Physical

Although most cases of amebiasis are asymptomatic, many patients with E. histolytica present with a spectrum of illness. The incubation period from amebiasis is between 2-4 weeks.

Symptoms range from mild abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea to severe colitis producing bloody diarrhea with mucus. Young people tend to have more severe disease compared to older individuals. Fulminant colitis can present with bloody diarrhea in some patients. Risk factors include the use of corticosteroids, poor nutrition, young age, and pregnancy. Toxic megacolon can be a complication and is associated with very high mortality.

A few patients may develop invasive extraintestinal disease. The most common extraintestinal manifestations are an amoebic liver abscess. Liver abscess develops in less than 4% of patients and may occur within 2-4 weeks after the initial infection. Liver abscess usually presents with right upper quadrant pain, fever, and tenderness to palpation.

An amoebic liver abscess may rupture into the pleural cavity or pericardium, presenting as pleural or pericardial effusion; however, this is a rare occurrence. Rarely, amebiasis may affect the heart, brain, kidneys, spleen, and skin. One can also develop proctocolitis, toxic megacolon, peritonitis, brain abscess, and pericarditis. Hence, amebiasis is a leading parasitic cause of death in humans.

Evaluation

Amebiasis can be diagnosed by a demonstration of the organism using direct microscopy of stools or rectal swabs. However, the organisms are seen in only 30% of patients.

Antigen detection using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and polymerase chain reaction techniques is often done. However, the most promising method of detection is the loop-mediated isothermal amplification assay because of its rapidity, operational simplicity, high specificity, and sensitivity. An ultrasound or CT scan evaluates for extraintestinal amebiasis.[5][1]

Cultures can be done from fecal or rectal biopsy specimens or liver aspirates. Cultures are not always positive, with a success rate of about 60%.

Liver aspiration using CT-guided imaging is often performed when there is a collection in the liver. The liver aspiration usually reveals a chocolate-like or thick, dark viscous fluid. Liver aspiration is indicated when the abscess is large or there is a threat of imminent rupture.

A colonoscopy is done to obtain scrapings of the mucosal surface. It is appropriate when the stool studies are negative for amebiasis.

Blood tests may reveal the following:

  • Elevated WBC
  • Eosinophilia
  • Elevated bilirubin and transaminase enzymes
  • Mild anemia
  • Elevated ESR

Imaging studies may be required depending on presentation. Ultrasound can identify a liver abscess.

Treatment / Management

The primary therapy for symptomatic amebiasis requires hydration and use of metronidazole and/or tinidazole. Luminal agents such as paromomycin and diloxanide furoate are also used. An amoebic liver abscess can be managed by aspiration using CT guidance in combination with metronidazole. Surgery is sometimes required to treat massive gastrointestinal bleeding, toxic megacolon, perforated colon, or liver abscesses not amenable to percutaneous drainage.[6][7][8]

Differential Diagnosis

  • Colitis caused by E. coli, Yersinia, or Campylobacter
  • Pericarditis
  • Perforated bowel
  • Diverticulitis
  • Hepatitis A
  • Cholecystitis
  • Shigellosis/Salmonellosis

Prognosis

If left untreated, amoebic infections have very high morbidity and mortality. In fact, mortality is second only to malaria. Amoebic infections tend to be most severe in the following populations:

  • Pregnant women
  • Postpartum women
  • Neonates
  • Malnourished individuals
  • Individuals who are on corticosteroids
  • Individuals with malignancies

When the condition is treated, the prognosis is good, but in some parts of the world, recurrent infections are common. The mortality rates after treatment are less than 1%. However, amoebic liver abscesses may be complicated by an intraperitoneal rupture in 5% to 10% of cases, which can increase the mortality rate. Amoebic pericarditis and pulmonary amebiasis have a high mortality rate exceeding 20%.

Today with effective treatment, mortality rates are less than 1% in patients with uncomplicated disease. However, rupture of an infected amebic liver abscess carries high mortality.

Complications

  • Toxic megacolon
  • Fulminant necrotizing colitis
  • Rectovaginal fistula
  • Ameboma
  • Intraperitoneal rupture of liver abscess
  • Secondary bacterial infection
  • Extension of infection from the liver into the pericardium or pleura
  • Dissemination in the brain
  • Bowel perforation
  • Stricture of the colon
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Empyema

Consultations

Once the diagnosis of amebiasis is made, consult with the general surgeon, gastroenterologist, and infectious disease specialist may be appropriate.

Deterrence and Patient Education

  • Avoid drinking contaminated water.
  • Use bottled water when traveling.
  • Purify water with tetraglycine hydroperiodide.
  • Avoid consumption of raw salads and fruits. Peel off the skin of the fruit if possible.
  • Thoroughly wash all vegetables before cooking.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Amebiasis is a relatively common parasitic infection. An important component of treatment is patient education via an interprofessional team. The primary caregiver, nurse practitioner, specialty care nurse, and pharmacist should educate all travelers on maintaining good personal hygiene, sanitation, and avoiding high-risk sexual practice. The E. histolytica cysts are relatively resistant to disinfection of water with chlorine. Drinking boiled or bottled water is advised. All food should be washed and the skin of fruits should be peeled. Physicians and nurse practitioners diagnose amebiasis and recommend treatment. Specialty trained nurses in infection control and gastroenterology should assist in the coordination of care and assisting with patient and family education. The pharmacist should educate the patient on the importance of hydration and medication compliance. If the symptoms of abdominal pain, cramps, and diarrhea persist, a visit to the healthcare provider is recommended. Communications between these professionals will improve the coordination of care. [9] [Level 5]

When treated promptly the outcomes are good.


Interested in Participating?

We are looking for contributors to author, edit, and peer review our vast library of review articles and multiple choice questions. In as little as 2-3 hours you can make a significant contribution to your specialty. In return for a small amount of your time, you will receive free access to all content and you will be published as an author or editor in eBooks, apps, online CME/CE activities, and an online Learning Management System for students, teachers, and program directors that allows access to review materials in over 500 specialties.

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor

This is an academic project designed to provide inexpensive peer-reviewed Apps, eBooks, and very soon an online CME/CE system to help students identify weaknesses and improve knowledge. We would like you to consider being an author or editor. Please click here to learn more. Thank you for you for your interest, the StatPearls Publishing Editorial Team.

Amebiasis - Questions

Take a quiz of the questions on this article.

Take Quiz
A 24-year-old male was brought to the hospital by his brother after 10 days of fever (39.5 C), productive cough, shortness of breath, and right side chest pain. Chest exam revealed significantly decreased air entry and tactile vocal fremitus with crackles and minimal wheezes on the right side. Chest x-ray revealed right-sided obliteration of costophrenic angle and displaced right lung. Abdominal exam was remarkable for tenderness in the right hypochondrium. Thoracentesis reveals chocolate-brown fluid. Which of the following is the next best step in the management of this patient?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 22-year-old female presents to the provider with progressive bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, and vomiting for the past 10 days. She denies any history of fever. She had already take ciprofloxacin 500mg BD for 3 days. Lab results are unremarkable except for Hb of 10.1 mg/dL. A colonoscopy is ordered and demonstrates the presence of multiple ulcers that have destroyed the intestinal epithelium. Which of the following is the best diagnostic test?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 28-year-old male presents with a history of progressive bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, and vomiting for the past few weeks. Now, he presented to the emergency room for right upper quadrant pain, associated with fever for the past 48 hours. He had a low-grade fever with a temperature of 38.5°C, blood pressure 110/60 mmHg, and pulse of 110 bpm. He had already take ciprofloxacin 500mg twice daily for 5 days. Lab results are unremarkable except for Hb of 10.1 mg/dL. Abdominal ultrasound reveals solitary cyst in the right lobe of the liver. A colonoscopy demonstrated the presence of multiple ulcers that have destroyed the intestinal epithelium. Which of the following drugs has a role in the management of the underlying disease?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 34-year-old male was admitted to the hospital for pain right hypochondrium associated with fever. Six months back, he had developed non-febrile bloody diarrhea (5–15 stools per day). He consulted his provider only 3 months after the start of symptoms. The bacterial stool culture was negative at this time. Ciprofloxacin 500mg two times per day for 7 days was not effective. Now, he presented to the emergency room for right upper quadrant pain, associated with fever for the past 48 hours. He had a low-grade fever with temperature 38.5°C, blood pressure 110/60 mmHg, and pulse of 110 bpm. He reported losing 5kg over the past 6 months. Which of the following is the most appropriate pharmacotherapy in this patient?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A patient from South America presents with bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and loss of appetite. The stools are analyzed and reveal Entameba histolytica. What is the treatment of choice?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
After a 2-week trip in South America, a patient returns with complaints of watery diarrhea, low-grade fever, anorexia, and abdominal pain. The symptoms started 24 hours ago and appear to be getting worse. Aside from the travel, he has nothing significant in his history. Exam reveals mild lower quadrant pain and a digital exam reveals occult blood. Smears of the stool reveal several cysts like organisms containing ingested red blood cells. What infection has he most likely developed?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 22-year-old female presents to the provider with progressive bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, and vomiting for the past ten days. She denies any history of fever. She has already taken ciprofloxacin 500 mg BID for three days. Lab results are unremarkable except for hemoglobin of 10.1 mg/dL. A colonoscopy is ordered and demonstrates the presence of multiple ulcers that have destroyed the intestinal epithelium. Which of the following site is most likely to be involved if the underlying condition remains untreated?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A male was admitted to the hospital for pain in the right hypochondrium associated with fever. Six months previously, he had developed non-febrile bloody diarrhea (5–15 stools per day). He consulted his provider only three months after the start of symptoms. The bacterial stool culture was negative at this time. Ciprofloxacin 500 mg two times per day for seven days was not effective. Now, he presents to the emergency department for right upper quadrant pain, associated with fever for the past 48 hours. He had a low-grade fever (38.5 C), blood pressure was 110/60 mm Hg, and his pulse was 110/min and regular. He reported losing 5 kg over the past six months. Which of the following is the most likely underlying infectious etiology?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up

Amebiasis - References

References

Saidin S,Othman N,Noordin R, Update on laboratory diagnosis of amoebiasis. European journal of clinical microbiology     [PubMed]
Kumanan T,Sujanitha V,Balakumar S,Sreeharan N, Amoebic Liver Abscess and Indigenous Alcoholic Beverages in the Tropics. Journal of tropical medicine. 2018     [PubMed]
Shirley DT,Farr L,Watanabe K,Moonah S, A Review of the Global Burden, New Diagnostics, and Current Therapeutics for Amebiasis. Open forum infectious diseases. 2018 Jul     [PubMed]
Fleming R,Cooper CJ,Ramirez-Vega R,Huerta-Alardin A,Boman D,Zuckerman MJ, Clinical manifestations and endoscopic findings of amebic colitis in a United States-Mexico border city: a case series. BMC research notes. 2015 Dec 14     [PubMed]
Guevara Á,Vicuña Y,Costales D,Vivero S,Anselmi M,Bisoffi Z,Formenti F, Use of Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction to Differentiate between Pathogenic {i}Entamoeba histolytica{/i} and the Nonpathogenic {i}Entamoeba dispar{/i} in Ecuador. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene. 2018 Nov 5     [PubMed]
Chacín-Bonilla L, [An update on amebiasis]. Revista medica de Chile. 2013 May     [PubMed]
González-Alcaide G,Peris J,Ramos JM, Areas of research and clinical approaches to the study of liver abscess. World journal of gastroenterology. 2017 Jan 14     [PubMed]
Burchard GD, [Treatment of diseases acquired abroad]. Der Internist. 2014 Sep     [PubMed]
Anwar A,Khan NA,Siddiqui R, Combating Acanthamoeba spp. cysts: what are the options? Parasites     [PubMed]

Disclaimer

The intent of StatPearls is to provide practice questions and explanations to assist you in identifying and resolving knowledge deficits. These questions and explanations are not intended to be a source of the knowledge base of all of medicine, nor is it intended to be a board or certification review of PA-Hospital Medicine. The authors or editors do not warrant the information is complete or accurate. The reader is encouraged to verify each answer and explanation in several references. All drug indications and dosages should be verified before administration.

StatPearls offers the most comprehensive database of free multiple-choice questions with explanations and short review chapters ever developed. This system helps physicians, medical students, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health professionals identify education deficits and learn new concepts. StatPearls is not a board or certification review system for PA-Hospital Medicine, it is a learning system that you can use to help improve your knowledge base of medicine for life-long learning. StatPearls will help you identify your weaknesses so that when you are ready to study for a board or certification exam in PA-Hospital Medicine, you will already be prepared.

Our content is updated continuously through a multi-step peer review process that will help you be prepared and review for a thorough knowledge of PA-Hospital Medicine. When it is time for the PA-Hospital Medicine board and certification exam, you will already be ready. Besides online study quizzes, we also publish our peer-reviewed content in eBooks and mobile Apps. We also offer inexpensive CME/CE, so our content can be used to attain education credits while you study PA-Hospital Medicine.