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Dysentery is an illness involving severe diarrhea that is often associated with blood in the feces. It is caused by ingestion of food containing bacteria, a disease in which inflammation of the intestines affect the body significantly.

There are two major types: shigellosis, which is caused by one of several type of Shigella bacteria; and amoebic dysentery, which is caused by the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica.



A patient with shigellosis will often recover without antibiotic sl'lkalkfkfaokfafaopftreatment. However, treatment by antibiotics is usually recommended because the disease is relatively severe, and it is highly contagious. It can be transmitted by "fomites", for example clothes, doorknobs, toilet seats, etc. The antibiotics norfloxacin, ampicillin and cotrimaxozole may be used.

See shigellosis for more information.

Amoebic dysentery

Amoebic dysentery is transmitted by contaminated water, and is well known as a "travellers dysentery", although it is occasionally seen in industrialized countries. Liver infection, and subsequent amoebic abscesses can occur. It can be treated with metronidazole or related azole drugs.

Symptoms of Dysentery

The main symptom of epidemic dysentery is bloody diarrhea. Other common symptoms include abdominal cramps, fever and rectal pain. Less frequent complications can include a form of blood poisoning known as sepsis, seizure and kidney failure. Approximately 5-15% of epidemic dysentery cases are fatal. It tends to be more common in infants, and elderly and malnourished people. Mortality is also highest in these groups.

Why is Dysentery Dangerous?

The diarrhoea associated with dysentery means that people suffering from the condition are likely to lose a large amount of important salts and fluids from the body. This dehydration can be fatal if untreated as vital organs like the kidneys, brain, and heart cannot function without a certain minimum of water and salt. Dysentery is highly contagious. Only a few bacteria need to be swallowed to trigger disease.

Who's at Risk?

Dysentery often poses a major threat in crowded areas with inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene and limited supplies of safe water. For instance, it was a major problem among soldiers in the trenches of the first world war, where sanitation was, at best, rudimentary. The disease is more likely to thrive in hot, humid and rainy conditions.

How is it treated?

In adults, dysentery caused by bacteria usually subsides spontaneously. But in children, and other vulnerable groups, the condition can be treated with antibiotics. However, Sd1 has, in recent years, become increasingly resistant to drug treatments. The key among people who have become dehydrated as a result of the disease is to replenish their fluid stocks as quickly as possible. This can be done using oral rehydration salts or intravenous fluids. Amoebic dysentery is usually treated with a combination of drugs. These include an amoebicide to kill the parasite, an antibiotic to treat any associated bacterial infection, and a drug to combat infection of the liver and other tissues.

Cultural Significance

Dysentery played a crucial role in the classic computer game, "Oregon Trail".

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