Entamoeba histolytica is one of the most common parasitic infections worldwide, infecting about 50 million people and resulting in 40 000–100 000 deaths a year. In Australia, people at risk of infection include immigrants, travellers returning from countries of high endemicity, Indigenous people, and men who have sex with men. Clinical manifestations range from asymptomatic carriage to invasive disease.
Molecular methods using the polymerase chain reaction amplify E. histolytica genes from extracted faecal DNA. Sensitivity and specificity are high (80%–100% and 100%, respectively). The advantage of molecular detection is that it is extremely sensitive (able to detect < 1 parasite) and reliably able to differentiate non-pathogenic Entamoeba species from E. histolytica. Drawbacks of this method are the high level of expertise required and the cost.
For symptomatic intestinal infection and extraintestinal disease, treatment with metronidazole or tinidazole should be followed by treatment with iodoquinol or paromomycin. Asymptomatic patients infected with E. histolytica should also be treated with iodoquinol or paromomycin, because they can infect others and because 4%–10%. Most patients have a gradual illness onset days or weeks after infection. Symptoms include cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea, and weight loss and may last several weeks.