Amebiasis is an infection of the intestines. It is caused by the microscopic parasite Entamoeba histolytica.
E histolytica can live in the large intestine (colon) without causing damage to the intestine. In some cases, it invades the colon wall, causing colitis, acute dysentery, or long-term (chronic) diarrhea. The infection can also spread through the bloodstream to the liver. In rare cases, it can spread to the lungs, brain, or other organs.
This condition occurs worldwide. It is most common in tropical areas that have crowded living conditions and poor sanitation. Africa, Mexico, parts of South America, and India have major health problems due to this condition.
The parasite may spread:
- Through food or water contaminated with stools
- Through fertilizer made of human waste
- From person to person, particularly by contact with the mouth or rectal area of an infected person
Risk factors for severe amebiasis include:
- Alcohol use
- Older or younger age
- Recent travel to a tropical region
- Use of corticosteroid medicine to suppress the immune system