Amebiasis

(amebic dysentery)

Amebiasis is an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasitic amoeba called Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica). Wisconsin averages about 10-15 cases per year.

Although anyone can have this disease, it is more common in people who live in tropical areas with poor sanitary conditions. In the United States, amebiasis is most common in:

  • People who have traveled to tropical places that have poor sanitary conditions
  • Immigrants from tropical countries that have poor sanitary conditions
  • People who live in institutions that have poor sanitary conditions
  • Men who have sex with men

E. histolytica infection can happen when a person:

  • Puts anything into their mouth that has touched the feces (poop) of a person who is infected with E. histolytica.
  • Swallows something, such as water or food, that is contaminated with E. histolytica.
  • Swallows E. histolytica cysts (eggs) picked up from contaminated surfaces or fingers.

Only about 10% to 20% of people who are infected with E. histolytica become sick from the infection. The symptoms are often quite mild and can include loose feces (poop), stomach pain, and stomach cramping.

Amebic dysentery is a severe form of amebiasis associated with stomach pain, bloody stools (poop), and fever.

Rarely, E. histolytica invades the liver and forms an abscess (a collection of pus). In a small number of instances, it has been shown to spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain, but this is very uncommon.

Learn more about Amebiasis – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Last Revised: September 20, 2021