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Entamoeba histolytica and E. dispar are intestinal parasites that infect approximately half a billion people worldwide annually. Only malaria and schistosomiasis are believed to be more prevalent parasitic causes of morbidity and mortality. Of the huge number of people infected with these species, most are infected with E. dispar, which is thankfully not associated with the disease. It is estimated that approximately 10% of those infected each year are infected with E. histolytica. These individuals become symptomatic and develop colitis and liver abscess resulting in a mortality rate estimated between 40,000 and 120,000 people per year. The two species are difficult to distinguish, which leads to unwarranted and unnecessary treatment for those with the benign species.
Those with pathogenic E. histolytica may show a wide range of symptoms. Some are completely asymptomatic, who then shed millions of cysts daily and represent a potential reservoir for dissemination. Others will experience mild diarrhoea that develops into bloody diarrhoea with intestinal cramps, possibly developing into perforation of the intestine.
The life cycle of E. histolytica is similar to that observed with other amoeba. The organism exists either as a trophozoite or as a cyst. Humans serve as the primary reservoir, with the organism being spread through ingested food and contaminated water, or by venereal transmission.
The Cellabs Entamoeba CELISA uses monoclonal antibodies to distinguish between the adhesin molecules of E. histolytica and E. dispar