Introduction to Giardiasis

Giardia infection, also known as beaver fever, is an intestinal disease caused by a type of protozoa called Giardia lamblia. This organism, prevalent in countries with poor sanitation and unsafe water, inhabits the digestive tract of various animals including humans.

It is marked by stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, and bouts of watery diarrhea. This highly contagious disease has affected about 200 million people worldwide. Giardiasis is also one of the most common waterborne diseases in the United States.

How it is tramsmitted?

The giardia parasite is passed through feces that have contaminated water and food. People who have spent time in an institution or day care, as well as travelers, are more susceptible especially those who consume improperly-treated water.

Giardia is also suspected to be able to transmit between animals and humans. Aside from these, the infection can also be transmitted through person-to-person contact such as anal sex or changing diapers.

Symptoms of giardiasis

Some people with giardia infection, particularly children, never develop symptoms. However, they still carry the parasite and can spread it to others. Meanwhile, there are cases of people getting sick because of the giardia parasite, which usually appears from one week to 10 days after the exposure. Some of these symptoms include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea, weight loss, and fatigue.

These symptoms are caused largely by the thick coating of giardia organisms coating the inside of the small intesting, and blocking nutrient absorption. Signs and symptoms usually improve between two to six weeks, but in chronic cases would last for months or even years. However, children who have a severe giardia infection may fail to grow normally or have learning difficulties later in life.

How it is treated?

Drugs used to treat adults include metronidazole, albendazole, and quinacrine. Meanwhile, furazolidone and nitazoxanide may be used in children. Newer medications like tinidazole are introduced recently, promising to treat giardiasis in a single treatment.

Treatments, however, are not necessary all the time as the body can defeat the infection by itself. Also, not everyone responds to giardia medications.