Amebiasis is an infection of the large intestine caused by microscopic parasites commonly known as amoebas. Because these parasites live in the large intestines, they travel in the faeces of infected people and can contaminate water supplies in places where sanitation practices are very poor.
It’s relatively common in areas of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Latin America where sanitation is poor. The parasite can contaminate fruits and vegetables grown in areas where human faeces are used as fertiliser. They can be transferred on the dirty hands of infected people who don’t wash their hands often or thoroughly well!
Among children in developing countries especially infants, gastrointestinal amebiasis has proved to be fatal. Worldwide, amebiasis is the third most common cause of death of parasitic infections and almost 10 % of the world’s population are infected with amoeba.
Dr Joseph Nsengiyunva of King Faisal says that,
"Amebiasis is acquired by ingesting food, water, fruits and vegetables that may be contaminated with faeces, washed in polluted water, or even prepared by someone who is infected."
It’s observable that many people in our communities are trying to take proper hygienic precautions as given by health workers but still they end up trapped by this deadly infection.
It has been observable that public eating places like restaurants where drinking water is not properly boiled and the utensils are not clean enough, is the main source of the disease.
Take time to find out the hygiene levels of those restaurants before buying ‘amoeba’ for your stomach!
"Locally duplicated mayonnaise for vegetables and desserts that are common in some restaurants can be very dangerous as far as infection is concerned. Worse still, such edibles are eaten in their fresh form, a condition that exposes amoeba to almost every customer who visits these eating places", said Jessica Uwabareze a professional social worker.
Amoeba is deadly because, when it gets into our bodies, it invades the walls of the intestines, leading to amoebic dysentery, an illness that causes intestinal ulcers, bleeding, increased mucus production and diarrhoea. After replicating, they may pass into the bloodstream and travel to the liver or infrequently to the brain where they form pockets of infection (abscesses). This could explain why some infected people tend to have memory loss or even mild brain disorders.
When it spreads to the liver, the amoeba causes liver abscess, whose symptoms include; fever, nausea, vomiting, and pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen, weight loss and an enlarged liver.
Nsengiyunva however said that, "it’s possible for a person to develop symptoms of an amoebic liver abscess without having the diarrhoea related infections.
Harmless amoebas can live in the intestines for years without causing any symptoms, he disclosed.
When invasive amoebas cause symptoms of amoebic dysentery, attacks can last from a few days to several weeks. Unless you are treated, you can have another attack in the short time.
Nsengiyunva said that rarely, amoebas spread to other organs including the lungs or brain. The skin may also become infected, especially around the buttocks, genitals, or wounds caused by abdominal surgery or injury.
There is no immunization methodology that one can use to protect against gastrointestinal amebiasis, except to keep high standards of hygiene.
Dr. Nsegiyunva cautioned the public on using public toilets seats; "they are used by different infected people and they are rarely disinfected with chemicals to kill the parasites. Every infected person who visits these places, excrete 15 million cysts of amoeba. Some of these cysts go into the toilets and others remain on these seats and in our nails. And it is then spread to those who are not infected", he explained.
So if your finger hygiene is not matching the required health standards, you’re likely to get infected with amoeba.
Amoeba exists in two forms: as an active parasite (trophozoite) and as a dormant parasite (cyst). Infection begins when cysts are swallowed. The cysts hatch, releasing trophozoites that multiply and can cause ulcers in the linings of the intestines.
Some trophozoites become cysts, which are excreted in stool (faeces) along with trophozoites. Outside the body, the fragile trophozoites die, but the hardy cysts survive.
If you have severe abdominal pain, especially in the right upper side, and a fever, visit a doctor immediately for medical examination. And when you have non-bloody diarrhoea that is frequent and symptoms of dehydration such as dizziness, immediately visit a health professional.
Drug treatment can cure amebiasis within a few weeks. However, because medication cannot keep you from getting infected again, repeat episodes of amebiasis may occur if you continue to live in or travel to areas where amoebas are found.
It’s therefore a responsibility of every person to take proper hygienic measures for his good health and for others in the community. Sanitation practices are very vital in restaurants that are visited by the majority of populations in towns.