Reassessment of the epidemiology of amebiasis: state of the art

Infect Genet Evol. 2009 Dec;9(6):1023-32. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2009.06.008. Epub 2009 Jun 18.


The epidemiology of amebiasis has dramatically changed since the separation of Entamoeba histolytica and Entamoeba dispar species, and the worldwide prevalence of these species has not been estimated until recently. The most cited data regarding prevalence, morbidity, or mortality due to amebiasis is the 1986 Walsh report, in which 100,000 deaths are reported to occur worldwide each year due to medical complications of invasive amebiasis. However, the prevalence values of Entamoeba histolytica infection could be completely erroneous since the estimations were performed prior to the molecular characterization of E. histolytica and E. dispar species. Moreover, Entamoeba moshkovskii, another morphologically indistinguishable human parasitic Entamoeba, was not mentioned or considered as a contributor to the prevalence figures in endemic areas. However, recent available prevalence and morbidity data obtained through molecular techniques allow the construction of a more reliable map of endemic regions of amebiasis all over the world [the Asian subcontinent (India, Bangladesh), Africa, Asian Pacific Countries (Thailand, Japan), South and Central America (Mexico, Colombia)]. The epidemiology of infectious diseases focuses on identification of factors that determine disease distribution in time and space, transmission factors responsible for the disease, clinical manifestations, and progression in the host, with the goal being the design of realistic intervention and prevention strategies in a reasonable period of time. In the present review, we will describe how molecular tools have made actual knowledge regarding the epidemiology of amebiasis possible. We will also analyze the most relevant available data on prevalence, morbidity, geographic distribution, patterns of transmission, exposure, and risk factors for infection in the human host. Our intention is to emphasize the recent molecular typing methods applied in genotyping Entamoeba species and strains, and to assess their value and limitations. Finally, we will discuss those areas of the host-parasite relationship that are still not fully understood, and the scientific challenges to approach this important public health problem in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amebiasis / diagnosis
  • Amebiasis / epidemiology*
  • Amebiasis / etiology
  • Animals
  • DNA, Protozoan / analysis
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Entamoeba / genetics
  • Entamoeba / isolation & purification
  • Genome, Protozoan
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Protozoan