Dientamoebiasis overview

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: : Kalsang Dolma, M.B.B.S.[2]

Overview

Dientamoebiasis is a medical condition caused by infection with Dientamoeba fragilis. Dientamoeba fragilis is a single-cell parasite that infects the lower gastrointestinal tract of humans. It is an important cause of travelers diarrhea, chronic abdominal pain, chronic fatigue and failure to thrive in children.

Historical Perspective

Early microbiologists reported that the organism was not pathogenic, even though six of the seven individuals from whom they isolated it were experiencing symptoms of dysentery. Their report, published in 1918, concluded the organism was not pathogenic because it consumed bacteria in culture, but did not appear to engulf red blood cells as was seen in the most well known disease causing amoeba of the time, Entamoeba histolytica. This initial report may still be contributing to the reluctance of physicians to diagnose the infection.

Causes

A study of Dientamoeba fragilis isolates from 60 individuals with symptomatic infection in Sydney Australia found that all were infected with the same genotype.

Epidemiology and Demographics

Although Dientamoeba fragilis has been described as an infection that is "emerging from obscurity," it has become one of the most prevalent gastrointestinal infections in industrialized countries, especially among children and young adults. A Canadian study reported a prevalence of approximately 10% in boys and girls aged 11-15 years, a prevalence of 11.5% in individuals aged 16-20, and over 20 had a lower incidence of 0.3%-1.9%.

Risk Factors

Anyone can become infected with this parasite. However, the risk for infection might be higher for people who have weak immune systems and those who live in or travel to settings with poor sanitary conditions.

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