What is Dysentery?

Dysentery (formerly known as flux or the bloody flux) is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhoea containing mucus and/or blood in the feces. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.

Dysentery Symptoms and Complications

Symptoms of dysentery include frequent passage of feces and, in some cases, vomiting of blood. The frequency of urges to defecate, the volume of feces passed, and the presence of mucus and/or blood depends on the parasite that is causing the disease. Once recovery starts, early refeeding is advocated, avoiding foods containing lactose due to temporary lactose intolerance, which can persist for years.

Dysentery Causes

Dysentery is usually caused by a bacterial or protozoan infection or infestation of parasitic worms, but can also be caused by a chemical irritant or viral infection. The two most common causes are infection with a bacillus of the Shigella group, and infestation by an amoeba, Entamoeba histolytica. When caused by a bacillus it is called bacillary dysentery, and when caused by an amoeba it is called amoebic dysentery.

Dysentery Treatment

Dysentery is initially managed by maintaining fluid intake using oral rehydration therapy. If this treatment cannot be adequately maintained due to vomiting or the profuseness of diarrhea, hospital admission may be required for intravenous fluid replacement. Ideally, no antimicrobial therapy should be administered until microbiological microscopy and culture studies have established the specific infection involved. When laboratory services are not available, it may be necessary to administer a combination of drugs, including an amoebicidal drug to kill the parasite and an antibiotic to treat any associated bacterial infection.

Furthermore, Lewin (2001) reports that "... consumption of fresh, warm camel feces has been recommended by Bedouins as a remedy for bacterial dysentery; its efficacy (probably attributable to the antibiotic subtilisin from Bacillus subtilis) was confirmed by German soldiers in Africa during World War II." In addition, sheep feces contain the same antibiotic as camel feces. There are numerous reports from German soldiers of the effectiveness of sheep and camel feces as cures for dysentery.


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