Cyst formation and faecal-oral transmission of Dientamoeba fragilis--the missing link in the life cycle of an emerging pathogen

Int J Parasitol. 2013 Oct;43(11):879-83. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2013.06.003. Epub 2013 Jul 19.


Dientamoeba fragilis is a protozoan parasite emerging as a cause of diarrhoea and "irritable-bowel-like" gastrointestinal disease in humans with a propensity for establishing long-term, chronic infections in humans. Although Dientamoeba was discovered over a century ago its life cycle and mode of transmission is not known. No cyst stage has been described and no animal models are presently available for the study of this parasite. Here we describe the establishment of an animal model using laboratory rodents, the fulfilling of Koch's postulates, and the discovery of a new cyst stage in the life cycle of D. fragilis. Our demonstration of long-term parasite carriage by rodents and prolonged shedding of cysts, together with elevated levels of calprotectin in the stool, confirms the capacity of this organism to cause disease and indicates dientamoebiasis should be considered in the differential diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Finally, we suggest that the cyst stage described here is the vehicle that mediates faecal-oral transmission of D. fragilis between hosts.

Keywords: Cyst; Diarrhoea; Dientamoeba; Irritable bowel; Transmission; Trichomonad.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dientamoeba / physiology*
  • Dientamoebiasis / parasitology*
  • Dientamoebiasis / transmission
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Feces / parasitology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / parasitology
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / transmission
  • Life Cycle Stages*
  • Rodentia
  • Spores, Protozoan / physiology*