Table of contents:
Balantidiosis is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Balantidium coli, which usually inhabits the intestines of pigs, but through consumption of water or food contaminated by pig feces, humans can become infected.
Normally, Balantidium coli infection does not cause symptoms, but when the parasite manages to penetrate the intestinal mucosa, it can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and, in more severe cases, abdominal bleeding, which can be fatal.
It is important that the diagnosis is made as soon as the first signs and symptoms of balantidiosis appear, so that treatment with antimicrobials can be started and, thus, it is possible to prevent complications.
Most cases of Balantidium coli infection are asymptomatic, and people are considered reservoirs of the parasite. However, when the parasite manages to penetrate the intestinal mucosa, it can cause some symptoms, such as:
- Diarrhea or dysentery;
- Abdominal pain;
- Weight loss;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Formation of ulcers;
In more severe cases, Balantidium coli can compromise the intestinal mucosa and lead to perforation and bleeding of the intestine, which can be fatal. Furthermore, as it is capable of producing an enzyme known as hyaluronidase, this parasite can increase the initial lesion and cause local necrosis, for example.
As the symptoms of balantidiosis are similar to those of amebiasis, the diagnosis is made through laboratory tests, such as stool examination, in which cysts are looked for in the formed stool, which is rarer, and trophozoites, that are normally present in diarrheal stools.See how the stool test is done.
How the transmission happens
Balantidiosis is transmitted through ingestion of water or food contaminated by Balantidium coli cysts, which are normally found in pigs. Thus, close contact between pigs and humans, inadequate hygiene in pig farms and inadequate treatment of water and human waste are risk factors for infection by this parasite.
The infective form of Balantidium coli is the cyst, which is small, spherical or slightly oval and has a smooth wall. Humans normally acquire the cysts through consumption of contaminated food or water. The ingested cyst cannot penetrate the intestinal mucosa, so when there is injury to the intestine, the entry of the parasite into the intestine can be facilitated. The cyst develops into a trophozoite, which is a slightly larger structure consisting of cilia, which reproduces by binary division or conjugation.
Trophozoites can replicate within lesions, increasing initial lesions and even leading to ulceration and local necrosis. The result of trophozoite reproduction are cysts, which are released in the feces.
How the treatment is done
The treatment of balantidiosis is done with the use of antibiotics that have activity against protozoa, such as Metronidazole and Tetracycline, which must be used according to the doctor's advice. It is important to carry out treatment against this parasite to avoid possible complications, such as dehydration and abdominal bleeding, for example, which can be fatal.
The best way to prevent balantidiosis is by improving the hygiene of people who have frequent contact with pigs, improving the conditions of pig farming so that their faeces are not disseminated, and improving sanitary conditions to prevent pig feces from reaching the water supply for people to use.Check out some measures to prevent worms.