What is the clinical spectrum of amebiasis?

Updated: Jul 19, 2019
  • Author: Vinod K Dhawan, MD, FACP, FRCPC, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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The incubation period for E histolytica infection is commonly 2-4 weeks but may range from a few days to years. The clinical spectrum of amebiasis ranges from asymptomatic infection to fulminant colitis and peritonitis to extraintestinal amebiasis, the most common form of which is amebic liver abscess.

Amebiasis is more severe in very young patients, in elderly patients, and in patients receiving corticosteroids. The clinical expression of amebiasis may be related to geography. For instance, amebic colitis is the predominant presentation in Egypt, whereas amebic liver abscesses predominate in South Africa.

Asymptomatic infections are common after ingestion of the parasite. E dispar does not cause invasive disease or antibody production. As many as 90% of E histolytica infections are also asymptomatic. The infection is self-limited but may be recurrent. It is not possible to distinguish between E histolytica and E dispar on clinical grounds; only antigen detection tests can make this distinction.

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