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Overview of giardiasis

Giardiasis refers to the infectious condition of the small intestine caused by the microorganism known as Giardia lamblia that belongs to the class of protozoa. Prevalence of giardiasis ranges from 2% to 7% in developed countries and 20-30% in the developing countries.1 The World Health Organization (WHO) suspects that around 200 million people are affected by this disorder every year.2 These protozoa are consider dangerous as they are protected by an outer cell and can survive inside the body or in the environment for longer period.. Young children are three times more prone to be affected by giardiasis due to reduced immune resistance.3


Symptoms of giardiasis

 About 50% of the affected individuals may be asymptomatic.1 In others, the symptoms occur within 10 days of exposure to these microorganisms.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Malabsorption
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flatulence
  • Vomiting
  • Crampy abdominal pains
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss 2,3


Causes of giardiasis

Giardia lamblia, a flagellated intestinal protozoan exists throughout the globe and causes Giardiasis.

Routes of transmission include:

  • Contaminated food and water (with sewage or feces by animals and humans);
  • Person to person contact;
  • Eating uncooked food; and
  • Homosexual contacts.1 - 3


Diagnosis of giardiasis

The diagnosis of giardiasis is mainly based on the identification of the microorganism in the stool samples under the microscope. You may need to provide about 2-3 samples as the microorganism may not be identified in some instances during the initial stages of the infection.

Additional tests may be advised if any other abnormalities in the stomach or the intestines are suspected.2 - 4 ,1

Treatment of giardiasis

Giardiasis may resolve by itself in some while administration of medications to kill the microorganism may be necessary in others.

Drugs that belong to the group of metronidazole are commonly advised for the treatment of giardiasis. A cure rate of 85-90% is associated with this treatment.

In some resistant cases change of the type of medication being used may be advised. Individuals suffering from diarrhea need to consume adequate amount of fluids to prevent dehydration. 2 - 4 ,1

Complications of giardiasis

The following are some of the complications of Giardiasis:

  • Unintended weight loss
  • Malabsorption (inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestines)
  • Dehydration 1


Prevention of giardiasis

Purification of water by filtration, boiling or iodine treatment should be followed before drinking surface water. Boiling water for a minimum of 10 min is also preventive measure for killing the protozoa. Individuals working in day care centers should follow strict hand hygiene protocols to prevent the spread of the infection. Safe sexual practices (especially while indulging in anal sex) must be followed to decrease the spread of the infection.6

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 30, 2012

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