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Giardia lamblia

Giardiasis, or Giardia lamblia infection , is a parasitic disease whose main symptom is diarrhea. It is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food or water, as well as from person to person.

The infection is usually endemic in developing countries, where the vast majority of cases that occur in the world are concentrated. The diagnosis of this disorder is very simple since you only have to analyze stool samples.

Regarding the different methods to prevent giardiasis , it is important to make water for human consumption drinkable globally. In African and Latin American countries, more than 80% of the cases occur because the population does not have access to drinking water.

What is Giardia lamblia?

Giardia lamblia is a microscopic parasite that causes giardia infection or giardiasis, a parasitic infection that affects the small intestine. This parasite is present in food and water, as well as on surfaces that have had contact with waste of both animal and human origin.

It is a very small parasite. Its form of reproduction is by binary division , that is, it is divided into two. That is why in a short time several million parasites can be formed.

Those who suffer from giardia infection usually have abdominal cramps, bloating, and diarrhea . It is a relatively common disease among those who travel to areas with poor hygiene, where they consume contaminated food or water.

The vast majority of cases are mild and disappear after a few weeks. However, long-term intestinal complications occur in certain patients , sometimes even chronically.

Causes of Giardia lamblia

Giardia lamblia parasites survive in the intestines of both people and animals. Before they pass into the stool, they are coated with very hard crusts to survive outside the intestine. Once they enter the body, these crusts dissolve, thus releasing the parasites.

  • Contaminated water: the most common cause of giardiasis is the consumption of contaminated water, which can occur in two types of situations. On the one hand, accidentally swallowing water contaminated with this parasite when swimming in lakes or rivers. And, on the other hand, consuming tap water in countries and with poor hygiene.
  • Contaminated food: the consumption of contaminated food is another of the main causes of this disease. This occurs because people who handle food have giardiasis or because raw fruits and vegetables are consumed, washed with contaminated water.
  • Person to person: Giardia lamblia infection can be spread from person to person. This occurs when hands become contaminated with feces, like parents changing their babies’ diapers.
  • Anal sex: And finally, unprotected anal sex with a person infected with giardiasis can be another likely cause of intestinal disease.

Symptoms of Giardia lamblia

Regarding the symptoms caused by Giardia lamblia infection, it is worth noting that many cases are asymptomatic.

In the vast majority of patients, the first signs appear approximately seven days after infection. They are usually mild in nature: foul-smelling watery diarrhea , abdominal cramps, flatulence, nausea, and tiredness for no apparent reason. Symptoms usually last between one and three weeks.

Diagnosis of Giardia lamblia

Given the symptoms indicated in the previous section, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. The physician first takes the medical history of the patient, assessing the signs that he presents and whether he has recently been exposed to any risk factor related to this parasite.

If you suspect Giardia lamblia infection, the medical test needed to diagnose the disease is a stool test . Since the presence of this parasite can vary over time, it is common for the doctor to request several stool samples taken on different days.

These samples are subsequently analyzed in a laboratory to check if there is indeed the presence of Giardia lamblia in it. If so, it is important to determine the most appropriate treatment.

Giardia lamblia treatment

Many cases of giardiasis are mild in nature, so that people get better on their own after a few weeks, without the need for any medical treatment . In these cases, it is only necessary to hydrate adequately to avoid dehydration .

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However, when the signs are more serious or the infection does not disappear over time, it is essential to start drug treatment . The most commonly used antibiotic for this disease is Metronidazole. It has a number of side effects, such as a metallic taste in the mouth and nausea.

In the event that a woman infected with Giardia lamblia is pregnant, as of today there is no medication to combat the infection during the gestation period. All treatments have a number of side effects that can put the baby’s health at risk. It is important to talk to your doctor about this condition.

Giardia lamblia complications

Although in a high percentage of cases patients recover with total normality from giardiasis, there are some in which complications occur that can affect health.

  • Dehydration: one of the main risks of diarrhea, especially in children and the elderly, is dehydration. The body loses large amounts of water, as well as other fluids. If dehydration is not avoided or treated early, it can lead to failure of various organs.
  • Malabsorption: There are some cases in which the intestinal tract is not able to properly absorb nutrients from food after giardiasis. A risky situation that can cause the development of a large number of disorders.
  • Lactose intolerance: many people with this disease develop lactose intolerance.
  • Weight loss: and lastly, diarrhea can cause accelerated and progressive weight loss.

How Giardia lamblia is transmitted

This parasite is transmitted through the feces of an infected person or animal , which can contaminate both water and food. The contagion can be given from person to person, especially among those who are in contact with young children; for example, when changing their diapers.

Infection from drinking water directly from lakes or streams , even when it appears clean, is also relatively common .

This disease can be spread as long as the infected person passes cysts. With proper treatment, the contagion time can be significantly reduced.

As for the time it takes for the first symptoms to appear, the most common is that the diarrhea begins after a week. However, there have been cases in which it has been presented after five or twenty days.

How to avoid Giardia lamblia infection?

So far there is no type of medicine or vaccine to prevent giardiasis.

  • Hand washing : frequent hand washing is an essential gesture, both among adults and children, to prevent a wide range of infectious diseases. It should be done several times a day, especially after going to the bathroom or eating.
  • Travel: when traveling to countries where hygiene is poor, there are a number of measures to take. On the one hand, avoid eating raw food. On the other hand, always drink bottled water, even to brush your teeth. And finally, do not consume ice.
  • Rivers and lakes: when you go swimming in rivers and lakes, it is essential to keep your mouth closed at all times to avoid swallowing water that may be contaminated.
  • Sexual relations: when practicing sexual relations, it must be done with adequate protection and in a safe way.

Giardia lamblia infection in the world

Currently, experts point out that giardiasis is the cause of diarrhea in approximately 20% of developing countries. This percentage is reduced to 3% in developed countries. The vast majority of those affected by this parasite in developed countries are people who have recently traveled to risk areas.

In countries with low socio-sanitary conditions , Giardia infection is more common in children between one and four years old, as well as in people between 20 and 40 years old.

The incidence of this disease is directly related to access to drinking water . Thus, it is African countries, such as Sudan, Nigeria or Angola, among others, where there are more people affected by giardiasis. In many cases, patients die from dehydration caused by diarrhea.

In the case of Spain, the incidence is very low. In recent years, the cases have not reached a thousand.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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