Blastocystis hominis is a parasite that lives in the stools. Found in both healthy individuals and those who suffer from diarrhoea or other gastrointestinal problems, it is still up for debate as to whether or not the parasite is the direct cause of any type of infection or is simply present with another infection that causes the associated symptoms. Typically spread through contact with faeces, it is prevalent in places with poor sanitation. While there is treatment, it is generally ineffective. In the end, most cases clear up on their own.
The symptoms associated with blastocystis hominis infection include typical gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhoea, bloating, nausea, cramping, fatigue, gas, and anal itching. If these symptoms last longer than a few days, medical attention should be sought out.
Treatment of a blastocystis hominis infection is dependent on the severity of the symptoms. For those who experience no symptoms at all or only mild symptoms, treatment is typically not necessary, and the infection will usually clear up on its own.
The effectiveness of medication for treating a blastocystis hominis infection varies from person to person. Given that the associated symptoms might not be caused by blastocystis hominis, the alleviation of any symptoms might due to the medication fighting the underlying infection. Drugs associated with the treatment of blastocystis infections are metronidazole (an antibiotic), a combination of the medications sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (sold as Bactrim and Septra, among others) and iodoquinol, an antiprotozoal medication.
One of the best ways to avoid a blastocystis hominis infection is to simply follow a number of preventive measures. While most of these tips are designed for those visiting countries with a high risk for the infection, it is always best to follow them at home as well.
When travelling, avoid buying foods from street vendors, as the cleanliness of both the individual and the food is never assured. Only eat foods that are cooked hot and well done, making sure to avoid any undercooked meat or shellfish. Only eat fruits and vegetables cleaned and peeled by yourself. Avoid tap water whenever possible when it comes to drinking, bathing, or brushing your teeth. Should bottled water not be available, find some way to disinfect the water. This can be done through either boiling, short-term iodine tablets, or a portable water filter.
To avoid passing the infection to another person, always wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and warm water. This should always be done before and after handling food, going to the bathroom and handling a dirty diaper.