Dientamoeba fragilis is a single-celled protozoan parasite belonging to the Mastigophora’s group. It is interesting to note that this group usually includes parasites that are able to propel themselves in their environment using one or more flagella. However, since Dientamoeba fragilis does not have a flagellum, it was previously thought to be an amoeba, but due to its morphological and genetic characteristics it was placed in the flagellated group. It has been hypothesized that Dientamoeba fragilis previously had a flagellum of its own, but lost it over the course of evolution.
Dientamoeba fragilis was first identified in 1918, and at that time was thought to be harmless to humans. Even today, this parasite remains an under-diagnosed cause of gastrointestinal disease, maybe due to this historical thinking of its being non-pathogenic and the fact that it is common to find co-infection with other intestinal parasites, such as pinworms. This makes it very difficult to assess the real number of infected people worldwide, but some studies suggest that it could be one of the most prevalent gastrointestinal infectious diseases in developed countries, especially in children.
Causes Of Dientamoeba Fragilis
As the complete life cycle of this parasite has not yet been determined, it is difficult to know for sure how it is transmitted. The main hypothesis points to the fecal-oral route, which involves contact between the mouth and substances (food, drink, hands or objects) contaminated with feces containing the parasite. For protozoan parasites, this type of transmission is usually linked with the production of cysts, a dormant stage allowing the parasite to survive to the harsh conditions prevailing outside the human body, as the active form of the parasite would die fairly quickly outside the body. This is especially true in the case of Dientamoeba fragilis, as the species name fragilis refers to the fragility of its active form that dies quickly once outside the body. However, a parasitic cyst structure has not been confirmed yet for this parasite. In fact, only one report has recently suggested that Dientamoeba fragilis has a cyst stage excreted by rodents and is able to be transmitted by the fecal-oral route in this animal. This finding has yet to be independently confirmed and linked to human infection.
Until now, it has been thought, but not proven, that this parasite is susceptible to transmission via helminth eggs, where it can be protected. The main hypothesis was that Dientamoeba fragilis was transmitted with pinworm eggs, as these two parasites are often found together within an infected patient.
Signs And Symptoms Of Dientamoeba Fragilis
Many people infected with Dientamoeba fragillis show no symptoms at all. This high number of asymptomatic cases leads some researchers to propose that some variants of Dientamoeba fragilis are not pathogenic to humans while other variants are able to cause disease. However, this hypothesis has not been proven yet.
When symptoms occur, the disease caused by this parasite is called dientamoebiasis. This parasite exclusively infects the large intestine and is not able to spread to other parts of the body. The most common symptoms include gastrointestinal manifestations such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. In some cases, other symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, and fatigue are likely to occur.
Sometimes symptoms of Dientamoeba fragilis infection mimic those experienced by people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This similarity can to lead to a false diagnosis of IBS for patients actually infected by Dientamoeba fragilis, as most doctors overlook testing for this parasite, in part due to to the somewhat limited availability of proper diagnostic methods.
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Best Diet For Dientamoeba Fragilis
The following diet tips are valid for all cases where excessive diarrhea and vomiting are present, whatever the cause, as these conditions can cause dehydration, a potentially life-threatening situation. Additionally, some necessary minerals are also lost with the water expelled during this process. Oral rehydration solutions are available over-the-counter in every drugstore, but homemade preparations can also be used. The standard method is to dissolve 6 teaspoons of sugar and a half teaspoon of salt in one liter of clean water. Boil the water first, then let it cool before adding the ingredients to assure you have the cleanest water possible. Be sure to put the correct amounts of sugar and salt in the mix, as too much of either ingredient can make the situation worse. Potassium levels also have to be restored, as this mineral is lost with the water. Eating foods high in potassium, such as bananas can help to rebuild healthy potassium levels.
While symptoms are still present, it is best to avoid foods that irritate the stomach, such as fatty and processed food, spicy or acidic food, and beverages such as alcohol, coffee, tea and soft drinks. The best diet for any gastrointestinal imbalance is always fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables and unprocessed meat or vegetable protein. However, if you are experiencing severe symptoms, it can be difficult to eat normally. In that case, listen to your body and eat only small amounts of fresh, unprocessed foods that appeal to you.
Best Natural Treatment For Dientamoeba Fragilis?
More scientific research is still needed to really understand Dientamoeba fragilis, primarily due to the very recent acknowledgement by the scientific community that this parasite is, indeed, causing symptoms in humans. As such, there is no definitive scientific proof of the efficacy of any natural treatment against this parasite. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that natural treatments are not actually effective.
Johnson, E. H., Windsor, J. J., & Clark, C. G. (2004). Emerging from obscurity: biological, clinical, and diagnostic aspects of Dientamoeba fragilis. Clinical microbiology reviews, 17(3), 553-570;
Lagacé-Wiens, P. R., VanCaeseele, P. G., & Koschik, C. (2006). Dientamoeba fragilis: an emerging role in intestinal disease. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 175(5), 468-468;
Munasinghe, V. S., Vella, N. G., Ellis, J. T., Windsor, P. A., & Stark, D. (2013). Cyst formation and faecal–oral transmission of Dientamoeba fragilis–the missing link in the life cycle of an emerging pathogen. International journal for parasitology, 43(11), 879-883;
Stark, D., Van Hal, S., Marriott, D., Ellis, J., & Harkness, J. (2007). Irritable bowel syndrome: a review on the role of intestinal protozoa and the importance of their detection and diagnosis. International journal for parasitology, 37(1), 11-20.