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What is Balantidium coli?

Balantidium coli is an intestinal protozoan parasite that causes the infection called balantidiasis. While this type of infection is less common in the United States, humans and other mammals can become infected with Balantidium coli by ingesting infective cysts from food and water that is contaminated by feces. Mostly asymptomatic, Balantidium infection can cause such symptoms as diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Where is Balantidium coli endemic?

Balantidium infection in humans is rare in the United States. However, Balantidium is more common among pigs in warmer climates, and in monkeys in the tropics. Infection in humans is therefore also more common in those areas, especially if good hygiene is not practiced. Balantidium coli is found throughout the world, but it is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions and developing countries.

How is Balantidium coli transmitted?

Balantidium coli is transmitted through the fecal-oral route. Humans can become infected by eating and drinking contaminated food and water that has come into contact with infective animal or human fecal matter. Infection can occur in several ways, including the following examples:

  • eating meat, fruits, and vegetables that have been contaminated by an infected person or contaminated by fecal matter from an infected animal,
  • drinking and washing food with contaminated water, or
  • having poor hygiene habits.
  • What are the signs and symptoms?

    Most people infected with Balantidium coli experience no symptoms. Balantidium coli settles in the large intestine in humans and produces infective microscopic cysts passed in the feces, potentially leading to more infections or re-infection. People who are immune-compromised are the most likely to experience more severe signs and symptoms. These include persistent diarrhea, dysentery, abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. If left untreated, perforation of the colon can occur.

    Is there a test for Balantidium coli infection?

    Yes. Stool samples can be examined by a lab. Microscopic examination can detect Balantidium coli in the stool.

    Is this contagious?

    Yes. Balantidium coli is contagious by the fecal-oral route.

    Is there treatment?

    Yes. The three medications often used to treat Balantidium coli are tetracycline, metronidazole, and iodoquinol. See your health care provider for treatment care.

    How can I prevent Balantidium coli?

    Balantidium coli infection can be prevented when traveling to endemic tropical countries by following good hygiene practices. Wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before handling food. Teach children the importance of washing hands to prevent infection. Wash all fruits and vegetables with clean water when preparing or eating them, even if they have a removable skin.


    For more information view the source: Center for Disease Control

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