Giardiasis (Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments)

Giardiasis (Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments)

Introduction
Giardiasis is an infection of your small intestine, and it is caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia. Once a person or an animal has been affected by Giardia, the parasite lives in the intestine and passes in the person’s feces. The parasite can survive outside the body for weeks and months.

Giardia infection is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in the United States. Now, this infection can be found in all regions of the world, mostly in areas of poor sanitation systems and drinking unsafe water. Giardia lamblia is widely distributed in streams and lakes, but they are also found in swimming pools, municipal water supplies, and wells.

The Giardia infection usually lasts for a week or two. But the parasites that were once present within your intestine will cause long-lasting damage to your intestine, and it suffers problems for a long time.

Different types of drugs have been designed to treat this parasital infection, but different person responds differently to the drugs.

The best way to avoid this infection is prevention. This infection spread from person to person, animals to the person, or through the infected food. Precautions are best suited than the treatment of Giardiasis.


Giardia treatment

Cysts are resistant forms and are responsible for transmission of giardiasis. Both cysts and trophozoites can be found in the feces (diagnostic stages).

The cysts are hardy, can survive several months in cold water. Infection occurs by the ingestion of cysts in contaminated water, food, or by the fecal-oral route (hands or fomites). In the small intestine, excystation releases trophozoites (each cyst produces two trophozoites).

Trophozoites multiply by longitudinal binary fission remaining in the lumen of the proximal small bowel where they can be free or attached to the mucosa by a ventral sucking disk. Encystation occurs as the parasites transit toward the colon.

The cyst is the stage found most commonly in non-diarrheal feces. Because the cysts are infectious when passed in the stool or shortly afterward, person-to-person transmission is possible. While animals are infected with Giardia, their importance as a reservoir is unclear. (Ref: CDC, Wikipedia)


Main Causes

  • As this parasite is present in human and animal feces. These parasites are also present in contaminated water, food, and soil, and these parasites can survive for long periods outside the host. So, if you accidentally encounter these parasites, you will get the infection.
  • The most common cause of Giardiasis is drinking contaminated water. The water containing parasite anywhere in the lakes, pools, or any water bodies could be a reason for an intestinal infection.
  • Giardiasis could also be spread through contaminated food. Although, this means of infection is less common as parasites are killed by heat when sterilized. Poorly handled food in close contact with contaminated water can spread infection.
  • Personal contact is another cause of spreading infection. The person having infection can easily spread it to the other person having the physical contact with him.
  • People working in daycare clinics are also susceptible to infection. They can get infected while changing the children’s diapers as the children are more susceptible to the disease due to the encounter of feces while wearing diapers.

Symptoms
Most of the people remain asymptomatic for 1 to 2 weeks after the infection. The symptoms progress slowly in some individuals, and some people do not show any symptoms at all.
The common symptoms of Giardiasis are:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Weight loss
  • Gas or Flatulence

In India, especially in the mountainous northern regions, giardia is a common hazard for most backpackers. The telltale sign is a sudden onset of eggy burps, and a lot of it too. The smell is unmistakable and a secondary hazard for those using the shared dormitory accommodation.


Risk Factors
Giardia parasite is a very common intestinal parasite, but some people are especially at risk:

  1. Poor Sanitation
    The people living in poor sanitation areas or having a poor clean and safe drinking water system are more susceptible to the infection as this infectious parasite is abundantly present in contaminated water reservoirs. So, people having poor sanitation systems are more affected.
  2. Unsafe Anal Sex
    As this disease spreads from person to person. The physical contact of an infected individual will spread the disease to the other person. Having precautions is the best way to prevent this intestinal infection.
  3. Children
    Children are more susceptible to this intestinal infection as they are more in contact with feces as they wear diapers or in the toilet training classes, the germs could be spread from one child to the other. The people working in health care departments are also more susceptible due to their encounter with feces.

Complications
The mild symptoms get severe in some individuals and lead to associated complications.

  • The infection can cause lactose intolerance in some individuals.
  • Children under the age of 5 having infection are at risk of malnutrition that can interfere with their physical and mental development.
  • Diarrhea associated with the infection sometimes leads to dehydration.

Precautions
The drugs and medicines are proved a little effective in the case of this parasite infection. The best way to is to adopt some protective measures to avoid this infection.

  1. Wash Hands Properly
    A routine of washing your hands properly will save you from several infectious parasites. Wash your hands before eating. The people working in health care should use proper alcohol-based sanitizers after treating infected individuals.
  2. Drink Clean Water
    Make it a habit to drink clean or mineral water. The infected water is the main source of this infection, and drinking clean water will prevent you from many diseases, including this infectious parasite.
  3. Practice Safer Sex
    Try to avoid unsafe sex and contact with unknown people. They might be the carriers of the infection, and this Giardiasis spread from person to person. It will reduce your chances of being infected by this parasite.

Giardia

This scanning electron micrograph (SEM) revealed some of the external ultrastructural details displayed by a flagellated Giardia lamblia protozoan parasite. G. lamblia is the organism responsible for causing the diarrheal disease “giardiasis”.

Once an animal or person has been infected with this protozoan, the parasite lives in the intestine, and is passed in the stool. Because the parasite is protected by an outer shell, it can survive outside the body, and in the environment for long periods of time.

Cysts are resistant forms and are responsible for transmission of giardiasis. Both cysts and trophozoites can be found in the feces (diagnostic stages). The cysts are hardy and can survive several months in cold water. Infection occurs by the ingestion of cysts in contaminated water, food, or by the fecal-oral route (hands or fomites). In the small intestine, excystation releases trophozoites (each cyst produces two trophozoites).

Trophozoites multiply by longitudinal binary fission, remaining in the lumen of the proximal small bowel where they can be free or attached to the mucosa by a ventral sucking disk. Encystation occurs as the parasites transit toward the colon. The cyst is the stage found most commonly in non-diarrheal feces. Because the cysts are infectious when passed in the stool or shortly afterward, person-to-person transmission is possible. While animals are infected with Giardia, their importance as a reservoir is unclear. (Ref: CDC, Wikipedia)

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