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An intestinal infection of humans caused by the protozoan Balantidium coli.



(balantidiosis in animals), a disease of swine and man caused by the holotrichous infusoria Balantidium. The disease is associated with impairment of intestinal activity. Balantidiasis occurs throughout the world. Among animals, weaned piglets and gilts are most prone to the disease. The source is sick swine, in whose feces nonmotile forms (cysts) of balantidia reach the soil and floors of pigsties. When swallowed, the cysts reach the intestine and turn into motile forms, or infusoria, which penetrate the intestinal wall and ulcerate it. Affected animals suffer from high temperature and diarrhea admixed with mucus and blood. The death rate in swine may be as much as 50 percent of the number contracting the disease. The presence of cysts in feces is necessary for a conclusive diagnosis. The treatment includes the use of disinfectants and bactericidal agents. Prevention is accomplished through strict observance of veterinary and sanitary regulations on farms, the keeping of swine in summer camps during the warm weather, and periodic feeding of antibiotics and other agents used to combat infestations.

In man, balantidiasis, or infusorian dysentery, arises as a result of the penetration of balantidia into the wall of the large intestine. The organisms come mainly from swine, but a human being who excretes the infusoria can also infect those around him. The cysts are transported by flies and may enter the digestive tract of man with contaminated food, water, or vegetables and from the hands. After entering the intestine, the parasites necrotize the tissues and produce ulcers. Balantidiasis often occurs with a normal temperature, and at times intestinal function is only slightly impaired. Stools are liquid, frequent, and admixed with mucus and pus, sometimes with blood; ineffectual urges to evacuate (tenesmus) are common, as is pain along the large intestine. If untreated, the disease invariably progresses. The diagnosis is based on physical examination and laboratory confirmation of the presence of balantidia. There are cases of an asymptomatic parasite carrier state. The treatment includes antibiotics and general supporting therapy. Prevention involves prompt detection and mandatory treatment of carriers of balantidia and patients.


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