Giardiasis is a digestive tract disease caused by infection of a protozoan parasite called Giardia duodenalis or also known as Giardia intestinalis or Giardia lamblia. The protozoan parasite Giardia is a very common enteric parasite that infects humans and animals around the world. Around 250-300 million human infections are reported each year and most cases are waterborne epidemics. The clinical signs of giardiasis can range from asymptomatic, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating, fatigue and weight loss.
Giardia can be found in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces from infected humans or animals. Giardiasis can occur due to the introduction of a Giardi cyst into the body, transmission can occur in various ways, transmission through drinking water and pool water is the most common transmission. The course of the disease or pathogenesis in humans and animals is not certain, but the severity of infection can be caused by parasitic and host factors, including the level of virulence or malignancy of the parasite, the immunity status of the host, humans or animals, and the number of cysts that enter the body.
Giardia cysts are protected by an external skin that allows them to remain outside the body for long periods of time, resistant to the environment, and cannot be completely eliminated by water treatment with normal doses of chlorine disinfection. Giardia has a life cycle and a simple metabolic system so that it can develop quickly in the host’s body and can infect the host even if only 10 cysts are ingested through food or drink.
Giardiasis was included in the WHO Neglected Diseases Initiative in 2006, and is now known to cause disease with significant morbidity. In countries with poor sanitation and inadequate water purification systems, giardiasis is developing rapidly. Symptoms of giardiasis appear after an incubation period of 1 to 14 days (mean 7 days) and usually last 1 to 3 weeks. Giardiasis generally resolves on its own but has the potential to be dangerous when the body’s immune system is weak. Giardia infection can cause significant acute illness and lead to post-infectious complications such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Giardia infection can reach sites away from active colonization of the intestine, including infections of the joints, eyes, and central nervous system.
Treatment of giardiasis patients properly and correctly is one of the preventive measures, because the patient’s feces is the main source of infection. In addition, the prevention of giardiasis can be done by preventing contamination of the Giardia cyst in food and beverages, cooking food and processing drinks properly, boiling drinking water for 5 minutes before consumption, and providing chlorine with a higher concentration of water purification is effective for killing Giardia cysts and prevent transmission of giardiasis.
Author: Ponasari Galuh Pratama
Veterinary Disease Science and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Universitas Airlangga (UNAIR), Surabaya