Dysentery is an infection of the intestines causing diarrhoea that contains blood or mucus.
There are two main types of dysentery:
Shigellosis, or bacillary dysentery, is the most common type experienced in the UK, caused by the shigella bacteria.
Amoebic dysentery, also called amoebiasis, is caused by a single-celled parasite called Entamoeba histolytica. This form of dysentery is more common abroad in tropical countries.
This article focuses on amoebic dysentery, This is usually caused by poor hygiene or contaminated food or water. Amoebic dysentery is a notifiable disease, so your GP must let the local health authority know if you have contracted it.
Causes of amoebic dysentery
Once inside the body, amoeba clump together to form a cyst that is protected by the stomach’s digestive acid. When the cyst passes through the intestines it breaks open infecting the body. The amoebae burrow into the intestinal wall and cause small ulcers or abscesses. Cysts exit the body via faeces but are still able to live outside, which is how many people become infected.
Severe dysentery is more common in developing countries due to compromised hygiene. You can get sick in a number of ways including:
Eating contaminated food
Drinking contaminated water
Contracting dysentery from another infected person.
Symptoms of amoebic dysentery
Symptoms can appear as many as 10 days after exposure and infection by the parasite. Signs of infection include:
Watery diarrhoea with blood or pus in it
Nausea or vomiting
Bleeding from back passage (rectum)
Loss of appetite.
Complications of amoebic dysentery
If the parasite gets into your bloodstream it can spread to other parts of your body, including the liver. When this happens you run the risk of developing a liver abscess. Symptoms include:
Loss of appetite