Dientamoeba fragilis is an enteric protozoan parasite that remains neglected, probably due to the misconception that it is uncommon and non-pathogenic. As more information became available and antimicrobial agents were developed with activity against this parasite, it became clear that D. fragilis is responsible of an active infection, associated with symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea. The clinical presentation of dientamoebiasis varies from asymptomatic carriage to symptoms ranging from altered bowel motions, abdominal discomfort, nausea and diarrhea with associated eosinophilia reported in up to 50% of paediatric and 10% of adult patients. Moreover, controversy exists over the protective role of the parasite in priming the immune system in a beneficial way such as in selecting beneficial bacteria, keeping potential harmful microbial intruders at bay or producing metabolites beneficial to the host. Thus, a number of ambiguities and obscurities surrounding D. fragilis infections exist. Moreover, the means by which this parasite is transmitted has not been fully defined. The diagnostic recognition of this parasite in fecal examinations requires specific processing and expertise; thus, it is possible that many infections with D. fragilis may go undiagnosed. A number of studies conducted on small numbers of case reports have demonstrated parasite clearance, as well as resolution of clinical symptoms following treatment with various antiparasitic compounds such as paromomycin, hydroxyquinolines and the 5-nitroimidazoles, including metronidazole and tinidazole. In addition there is very little in vitro susceptibility data available for the organism making some current treatment options questionable. This chapter reviews the scientific literature relating to Dientamoeba's life cycle, prevalence, diagnosis and pathogenicity.
Part of the book: An Overview of Tropical Diseases