Giardiasis

Giardiasis is an infection of the small intestine caused by Giardia lamblia, a unicellular parasite.

Giardiasis occurs worldwide and is especially common among children and in places where sanitation is poor. In some developed countries, giardiasis is one of the most common intestinal parasitic infections. It is more common among gay men and who have traveled to developing countries. It is also more common among people with low stomach acid content in those to which they have been surgically removed, in people with chronic pancreatitis and in people whose immune system is deficient.

The parasite is transmitted from one person to another by cysts that are excreted in the feces. Transmission can occur directly between children or sexual partners, or indirectly through contaminated food or water.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms are usually mild, include nausea, intermittent, belching, a greater amount of gas (flatulence), abdominal discomfort, stool bulky and smelly, and diarrhea. If the condition is severe, the patient may be unable to absorb important nutrients from food and as a result lost much weight. It is unknown why giardiasis interferes with the absorption of nutrients

Symptoms guide the physician toward the diagnosis. This is confirmed by laboratory tests that reveal the presence of the parasite in the stool or duodenal secretions. Because people have been infected for a long time tend to excrete the parasites at unpredictable intervals, may be necessary serial examinations of stool.

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