What causes dysentery?

The bacteria Shigella and E coli and the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica are the most common causes of dysentery. These organisms are present in the stool (feces) of infected people and animals. The Entamoeba histolytica may uneventfully reside in the colon, but if it attacks the colon wall, it can cause dysentery. People with weakened immune systems are also more likely to develop amebic dysentery.

Most commonly, dysentery is caused by drinking water or eating food from sources contaminated with feces containing the pathogens. Swimming in contaminated water may also result in dysentery. For this reason, dysentery occurs most frequently in people traveling to developing countries and in children who touch infected human or animal feces without proper hand washing.

Common causes of dysentery include:

Several organisms are known to cause dysentery, most commonly:

  • Campylobacter
  • Certain types of E coli
  • Entamoeba histolytica
  • Salmonella
  • Shigella

What are the risk factors for dysentery?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing dysentery. Not all people with risk factors will get dysentery. Risk factors for dysentery include:

  • Attendance or work in a day care setting
  • Close contact with an infected person or animal
  • Consumption of untreated water from lakes, rivers or streams
  • Fecal to oral contact
  • Travel in countries where the infection is common
  • Use of public swimming pools

Reducing your risk of dysentery

You can lower your risk of developing or transmitting dysentery by:

  • Avoiding swallowing water in swimming pools, hot tubs, or other recreational water sources
  • Drinking only purified water when backpacking, camping or hiking
  • Drinking only purified water when visiting developing countries
  • Using purified water for brushing your teeth and washing food when visiting developing countries
  • Washing your hands well with soap and water after touching feces, having contact with an infected person or animal, changing diapers, or using the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food
INTRODUCTION

What is dysentery?

Dysentery broadly refers to gastrointestinal disorders characterized by inflammation of the intestines, chiefly the colon. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines dysentery as any episode of diarrhea in which blood is present in loose, watery stools.... Read more about dysenteryintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of dysentery?

Dysentery causes irritation and inflammation of the intestines that may result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.... Read more about dysenterysymptoms

TREATMENTS

How is dysentery treated?

Treatment for dysentery begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have dysentery, your health care provider may ask you to provide stool samples for laboratory testing.... Read more about dysenterytreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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