An Overview of Balantidiasis (Balantidium Infection)

Balantidiasis is an infectious disease caused by the ciliated protozoan parasite called Balantidium coli. The life cycle of the Balantidium coli begins with cysts in the host. The host consumes contaminated water or food, developing cysts which are considered as the parasite stage that transmits Balantidiasis.  Excystation then takes place within the small intestine of the host. During this stage, trophozoites inhabit the large intestine. Within the lumen of the large intestine, the trophozoites replicate through binary fission and it is possible for conjugation to take place during this stage. Encystation of the trophozoites follows resulting in infectious cysts. A number of trophozoites will occupy the colon and multiply there while others go back to the lumen of the large intestine for disintegration. Finally, mature cysts are expelled from the body of the host with feces.

Balantidium coli bacterium can be found all over the world. Pigs serve as its ideal animal reservoir, thus, Balantidiasis in humans is often found in locations where pigs are bred. Rodents and primates are other possible reservoirs for the Balantidium coli bacterium.

Most cases of Balantidiasis display no symptoms. Rarely, symptoms may include dysentery, abdominal pain, weight loss, and diarrhea. For persons of weak health, symptoms of Balantidiasis may be worse.

Balantidiasis can be diagnosed by stool examination or endoscopy. Stool or tissue samples need to be tested for trophozoites. Because Balantidium coli is not resilient and disintegrates outside of the colon, multiple stool samples may be required. Rarely, cysts may be discovered indicating the presence of Balantidium coli. 

The treatment for Balantidiasis is a prescription medication. Tetracycline is the most commonly prescribed by doctors. The medications metronidazole as well as idoquinol are other options. It should be noted that tetracycline should not be used by pregnant woman or children who are under eight years of age.

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