What Is Amebiasis?

Amebiasis (am-uh-BYE-eh-sis) is an infection of the intestines with a parasite called Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica). The parasite is an amoeba (uh-MEE-buh), a single-celled organism. People can get this parasite by eating or drinking something that's contaminated with it.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Amebiasis?

In many cases, the parasite that causes amebiasis lives in a person's large intestine without causing any symptoms. Other times, it causes:

  • diarrhea (which may be bloody)
  • stomach pains
  • cramping
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • fever

In rare cases, it can spread into other organs such as the liver, lungs, and brain.

For some people, symptoms of amebiasis can begin within days to weeks of swallowing contaminated food or water. For others, symptoms can take months to appear.

How Does Amebiasis Spread?

Amebiasis is contagious. People with amoebas in their intestines can pass the infection to others through stool (poop) even if they have no symptoms. When infected stool contaminates food or water supplies, amebiasis can spread quickly to many people at once. This is especially true in developing countries, where drinking water may be contaminated.

Amebiasis also can spread between people when hands aren't washed well, contaminated objects are shared, and by sexual contact.

Amebiasis usually happens in areas where living conditions are crowded and unsanitary. The illness is common in parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia. It is rare in the United States, but is sometimes seen in people who have immigrated from or traveled to countries where amebiasis is more common.

How Can Amebiasis Be Prevented?

Because amoebas may contaminate food and water, you can help prevent the illness by being careful about what you eat and drink, especially in developing countries. In those areas, a good rule regarding food is to cook it, boil it, peel it, or forget it. Ice can also be contaminated and should be avoided in these countries.

Everyone should wash their hands well after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.

How Is Amebiasis Treated?

Doctors can treat amebiasis with antibiotics . Some people need more treatment, such as extra fluids.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor if anyone in your family has signs or symptoms of amebiasis, such as:

  • diarrhea with blood or mucus
  • diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 weeks
  • belly pain
  • a fever
  • a swollen belly
  • pain or tenderness in the area of the liver (below the ribs on the right side)

This is especially important if you have recently traveled to a part of the world where amebiasis is common. Also call the doctor if your child has diarrhea and shows signs of being dehydrated, such as a dry or sticky mouth, peeing less than usual, no tears when crying, dizziness, or drowsiness.

Back to Articles


Related Articles

Sepsis

Sepsis is a serious infection usually caused when bacteria make toxins that cause the immune system to attack the body's own organs and tissues.

Read More

Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands?

Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Learn all about the best way to wash your hands in this article for kids.

Read More

Stool Tests

Your child's doctor may order a stool collection test to check for blood, bacteria, ova, or parasites. Find out how this test is performed and when you can expect the results.

Read More

Hand Washing: Why It's So Important

Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don't wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.

Read More

Food Safety for Your Family

Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe?

Read More

Campylobacter Infections

These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can help prevent them.

Read More

Salmonella Infections

Salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by the bacteria salmonella. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache.

Read More

Staying Healthy While You Travel

When you're traveling with your kids, there's a chance that someone might get sick. But early planning and smart packing can help ensure your family stays healthy and safe.

Read More

Germs: Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi, and Protozoa

Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease - and they're so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.

Read More

Food Poisoning

Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.

Read More

Diarrhea

Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it's usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.

Read More

The 5-Second Rule

Did you ever eat something off the floor? Uh-oh. Time to read this article for kids about the 5-second rule.

Read More

What Are Germs?

You know they can hurt you, but what are these invisible creatures? Find out in this article for kids.

Read More

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

Search our entire site.