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Dientamoeba fragilis: what is it?

Mark Siddall mes at zoo.toronto.edu
Wed Dec 13 22:48:31 EST 1995

In article <4a4qf3$jhk_001 at s7.rose.com> richard at user.rose.com (Richard Dibon-Smith) writes:
>A member of the family has contracted this particular parasite (just 
>diagnosed) and we are wondering what it is, how it's caught, and what can 
>be done about it?

Dientamoeba fragilis is a flagellate parasite of humans and is not
uncommon in children esp. at daycare centers or classrooms etc.  
No one is entirely sure how it is transmitted but conventional
wisdom has it that it is transmitted when the patient contracts
pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis).
The reason for this belief is that D. fragilis cannot form cysts to 
allow it to survive outside of a GI tract, and because a relative of
D.f. (Histomonas meleagridis) is known to be transmitted among birds
via the eggs of another pinworm Heterakis gallinae.
So if this is correct, avoiding D. fragilis may be the same as avoiding
pinworm (to the extent that this is possible).  
Once someone has D. fragilis I am not sure about treatment (I'm sure that
your local physician has some good ideas).  Nonetheless, I doubt anyone has 
ever perished of it, though I do know of one persistent case which
caused much distress.

Mark E. Siddall                "I don't mind a parasite...
mes at vims.edu                    I object to a cut-rate one" 
Virginia Inst. Marine Sci.                     - Rick
Gloucester Point, VA, 23062

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