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Dysentery is an infection of the intestines, primarily of the colon. It is characterized by inflammation of the intestine, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea with stools that often contain blood and mucus. Without adequate hydration, it can be fatal.


The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies two main causes of dysentery.


Bacillary dysentery, or shigellosis

This type produces the most severe symptoms. It is caused by the Shigella bacillus.


Poor hygiene is the main source. Shigellosis can also spread because of tainted food.


Amoebic dysentery, or amoebiasis

This type is caused by Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica), an amoeba.


When amoebae inside the bowel of an infected person are ready to leave the body, they group together and form a shell that surrounds and protects them. This group of amoebae is known as a cyst, which is then passed out of the person's body in the faeces and can survive outside the body.



Mild symptoms include:

  • a slight stomach-ache

  • cramps and bloating

  • flatulence (passing gas)

  • urgency to pass stool

  • feeling of incomplete emptying

  • loss of appetite

These usually appear from 1 to 3 days after infection, and the patient recovers within a week.


Less commonly, may be:

  • blood or mucus in the faeces

  • bleeding from your rectum

  • intense abdominal pain

  • fever


If treatment is necessary, it will depend on the diagnosis made.


Laboratory results will reveal whether the infection is due to Shigella or Entamoeba histolyca infection.


Though treatment is usually started without or before confirmation by laboratory analysis.



Dysentery mostly stems from poor hygiene. Hand-washing is the most important way to stop the spread of infection. You're infectious to other people while you're ill and have symptoms.


To reduce the risk of infection, people should wash their hands regularly with soap and water, especially before and after using the bathroom and preparing food.


Culled from Staywellworld blog post dated July 19, 2017.

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