What is Dientamoeba fragilis?
Dientamoeba fragilis is a parasite that lives in the large intestine of people. Infection is common worldwide, including in the United States.
What are the symptoms of infection with Dientamoeba fragilis?
Many infected people do not have any symptoms. The most common symptoms are diarrhea and abdominal pain. Symptoms also can include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, and fatigue. The infection does not spread from the intestine to other parts of the body.
How is infection with Dientamoeba fragilis diagnosed?
Your health care provider will ask you to provide stool specimens for testing. Because the parasite is not always found in every specimen, you might be asked to submit stool from more than one day. You might also be tested for pinworm eggs, which sometimes are found in people who are infected with D. fragilis.
Is medication available to treat infection with Dientamoeba fragilis?
Yes. Safe and effective medications are available to treat D. fragilis infection.
How do people get infected with Dientamoeba fragilis?
This question is difficult to answer because we aren’t sure how D. fragilis is spread. Most likely, people get infected by accidentally swallowing the parasite; this is called fecal-oral transmission. The parasite is fragile; it probably cannot live very long in the environment (after it is passed in feces) or in stomach acid (after it is swallowed). An unproven possibility is that pinworm eggs (or the eggs of another parasite) help protect and spread D. fragilis.
Who is at greatest risk for infection?
Anyone can become infected with this parasite. However, the risk for infection might be higher for people who live in or travel to settings with poor sanitary conditions.
Not well understood; probably fecal contamination of food or water
- May be asymptomatic
- May cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, fever, fatigue, weight loss, appetite loss, and/or fatigue
Therapeutic Options and Considerations:
- “Moderate” amounts of DNA, that are not above the laboratory reference range, may cause symptoms and warrant treatment
- Infection can be treated with iodoquinol, paromomycin, or metronidazole
- Consider probiotics, broad-spectrum anti-parasitic herbal formula, and the 5R Protocol
- Look for and address sources of reinfection
- Address other imbalances on the GI-MAP
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