• Fecal oral transmission of Entamoeba histolytica cyst
  • Most infection asymptomatic
  • Excystation in intestinal lumen
  • Trophozoites adhere and colonizes large intestine forming new cysts or invade the intestinal mucosa to cause colitis or abscesses
  • Liver abscess - 10x more common in men
  • Incubation period usually 2-4 weeks, but may range from a few days to years

Clinical Features

  • Asymptomatic vs. dysentery vs. extraintestinal abscesses
  • Intestinal- several weeks of crampy abdominal pain, weight loss, watery or bloody diarrhea
  • Liver abscess-fever, cough, RUQ or epigastric pain, right-sided pleural pain or referred shoulder pain +/- GI upset
    • Hepatomegaly with tenderness over the liver a typical finding
    • Abscess rupture can involve associated peritoneum, pericardium, or pleural cavity
  • Extrahepatic amebic abscesses in the lung, brain, and skin are rare

Differential Diagnosis


Hepatic abscess

Fever in traveler

Acute diarrhea



Watery Diarrhea

  • Enterotoxigenic E. coli (most common cause of watery diarrhea)[1]
  • Norovirus (often has prominent vomiting)
  • Campylobacter
  • Non-typhoidal Salmonella
  • Enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC)
  • Enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis

Traveler's Diarrhea


  • CBC
  • Chem
  • LFTs
  • Stool or abscess microscopy
  • Stool, serum, or abscess fluid antigen
  • Indirect hemagglutination (antibody)
  • CT or ultrasound for suspected abscess


Asymptomatic colonization


Liver abscess

  • Flagyl, tinidazole, paromomycin, or diloxanide
  • Consider drainage of abscess by IR if no response to antibiotics in 5 days, abscess > 5cm, or left lobe involvement


  • Home if no complications


  1. Marx et al. “Cholera and Gastroenteritis caused by Noncholera Vibrio Species”. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine 8th edition vol 1 pg 1245-1246.
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