Amebiasis, or amoebic dysentery, is a gastrointestinal illness that develops when an organism called a parasite enters your intestines. The illness may cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, and fever. Healthcare providers usually treat it with antibiotics.


Amebiasis is a disease caused by a one-celled parasite called Entamoeba histolytica.


Not everyone who has an amebiasis infection gets sick. You might not have any amebiasis symptoms, especially when you’re first infected. You may develop symptoms within four weeks after infection. Symptoms include:

  • Cramping (abdominal pain).
  • Diarrhea (sometimes with rectal bleeding).
  • Fever.
  • Loose stools (amebiasis stool color may not change, but stools may be watery).
  • Nausea.
  • E. histolytica can live in your intestines for a long time, even if you don’t develop symptoms. If you’ve traveled to an area with unsanitary conditions, ask your healthcare provider if you should undergo testing.


Your doctor may suspect amebiasis after asking about your recent health and travel history.

It can be difficult to diagnose amebiasis because E. histolytica looks a lot like other parasites, such as E. dispar, which is occasionally seen with E. histolytica but is generally considered nonpathogenic, meaning it’s not associated with disease.

To detect E. histolytica and rule out other possible infections, your doctor may order tests such as stool samples and antigen testing.

Exams and tests

The following tests may be performed to check for the presence of E. histolytica:

  • A stool test called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is often performed to detect E. histolytica antigens.
  • Using a blood sample or nasal swab, a molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test may be performed to distinguish E. histolytica from other infections.
  • Your doctor may also order blood tests to help determine if the infection has spread beyond your intestines to another organ, such as your liver.
  • When the parasites spread outside the intestine, they may no longer show up in your stool. Your doctor may order an ultrasound or CT scan to check for lesions on your liver.
  • Finally, a colonoscopy may be necessary to check for the presence of the parasite in your large intestine (colon).

Note: Amebiasis with or without liver abscess is parallel in symptomatology with ulcerative colitis and should be rated on the scale provided for the latter. Similarly, lung abscess due to amebiasis will be rated under the respiratory system schedule, diagnostic code 6809.


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