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Amoebic dysentery - What is amoebic dysentery?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

Amoebic dysentery is an infection in your bowels (intestines) caused by a type of germ called an amoeba. You're most likely to get it if you've been travelling in a developing country. If you have amoebic dysentery, you get bad diarrhoea. It can be treated with antibiotics.

We've brought together the best research about amoebic dysentery and weighed up the evidence about how to treat it. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

If you have amoebic dysentery, you get bad diarrhoea. You get amoebic dysentery if your bowels (intestines) are infected with a type of germ called an amoeba.

Amoebas are tiny parasites. This means they can live inside your body. If you eat food or drink water containing amoebas, they can get inside your body and live in your bowels. Sometimes they live inside your body without making you ill.[1][2] But they can also cause bad diarrhoea.

If you're infected, your stools will contain amoebas. The amoebas can then get into food and water, and the infection can pass on to other people. For example, if you go to the toilet and don't wash your hands, amoebas from your stool could get into any food you prepare. Or, sewage that isn't treated properly could contaminate drinking water.[3][4] Eating food that's been washed in water contaminated with amoebas can also make you ill.

Even if the infection in your bowels doesn't make you ill, you can still pass it on to other people. So it's important to get treatment.

Who gets amoebic dysentery?

amoebic-dysentery_default.jpgYou usually get amoebic dysentery after eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. So it's more common to get the infection in developing countries where clean water isn't always available.[3][4]

Amoebic dysentery can also be passed from person to person. For example, if someone doesn't wash their hands after going to the toilet, then shakes your hand or gives you money, amoebas could pass into your mouth when you eat.

People from the UK are most likely to get amoebic dysentery when they're travelling. You're also more likely to get it if you:[1][3][5]

  • Live in crowded conditions or in close contact with other people, such as at an army barrack

  • Have a weak immune system (for example, because you're having chemotherapy or you have HIV)

  • Have oral or anal sex.

Preventing amoebic dysentery

If you're travelling in a developing country, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of getting amoebic dysentery. To read more, see Preventing amoebic dysentery.

Glossary

chemotherapy

The use of chemicals or drugs to treat or prevent disease, usually cancer.

diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is when you have loose, watery stools and you need to go to the toilet far more often than usual. Doctors say you have diarrhoea if you need to go to the toilet more than three times a day.

HIV

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It's the virus that causes AIDS. It makes you ill by damaging cells called CD4 cells. Your body needs these cells to fight infections. You can get HIV by sharing needles for injecting drugs, or by having sex without a condom with someone who has the virus.

parasite

Parasites are germs or creatures that can only survive by living on or in another living thing.

For more terms related to Amoebic dysentery

Citations

For references related to Amoebic dysentery click here.
Last Updated: March 13, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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