Amoebiasis is an infection of the large bowel that usually presents with diarrhoea and is caused by parasitic amoebae.
Infection occurs through ingestion of food and water contaminated with human faeces containing microscopic amoebic cysts. As well as contaminating food and water, cysts may stick to crockery and cutlery and be passed from hand to hand or during oral-anal intercourse.
The disease occurs worldwide but is most common in conditions of poor sanitation and hygiene, especially in tropical areas of Asia, Africa, South and Central America.
Most infections don’t cause symptoms. When symptoms occur they can result in:
- Amoebic dysentery: Watery or bloody diarrhoea with abdominal pain, tenderness and weight loss.
- Extra-intestinal amoebiasis: infection can spread outwith the bowel and cause abscesses, commonly in the liver – pain and tenderness on the right of the abdomen and fever occur.
Infection can be treated using antibiotics to kill the amoebae and antimicrobial medicine to kill the cysts.
There is no vaccine against amoebiasis.
All travellers are potentially at risk. Risk is highest in those visiting areas with poor sanitation and hygiene.
To reduce the risk of infection, all travellers should practice careful food and water hygiene and personal hygiene.
See also preventing travellers' diarrhoea.