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Published: 22nd Jun, 2020

A team of researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has developed new drug molecules against the protozoa that cause amoebiasis.


  • Amoebiasis or amoebic dysentery is a common parasitic enteral infection. It is caused by the protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica.
  • Amoebiasis is present all over the world. Each year, about 40000 to 110000 people die from amoebiasis infection.
  • Amoebiasis may present with no symptoms or mild to severe symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bloody diarrhea.
  • Severe complications may include inflammation and perforation resulting in peritonitis. People affected may develop anemia.
  • Types The clinical spectrum ranges from asymptomatic infection, diarrhoea and dysentery to fulminant colitis and peritonitis as well as extraintestinal amoebiasis.
    • Acute amoebiasis can present as diarrhoea or dysentery with frequent, small and often bloody stools.
    • Chronic amoebiasis can present with gastrointestinal symptoms plus fatigue, weight loss and occasional fever.
    • Extraintestinal amoebiasis can occur if the parasite spreads to other organs, most commonly the liver where it causes amoebic liver abscess.
    • Amoebic liver abscess presents with fever and right upper quadrant abdominal pain

What is Entamoeba histolytica?


  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Entamoeba histolytica is the third-leading cause of morbidity and mortality due to parasitic disease in humans.
  • histolytica is classified as a category B biodefense organism because of its environmental stability, ease of dissemination, resistance to chlorine, and it is easily spread through contaminated food products.
  • Besides the GI tract, E. histolytica can affect many organ systems.


  • Prevention of amoebiasis is by improved sanitation. Two treatment options are possible, depending on the location.
  • Amoebiasis in tissue is treated with metronidazole, tinidazole, nitazoxanide, dehydroemetine or chloroquine.
  • A luminal infection is treated with diloxanide furoate or iodoquinoline. Effective treatment may require a combination of medications.
  • Infections without symptoms require treatment, but infected individuals can spread the parasite to others.

The findings

  • This protozoan is anaerobic or micro-aerophilic in nature such that it cannot survive high concentrations of oxygen.
  • However, during infection, it faces a high surge of oxygen inside the human body. The organism synthesises large amounts of cysteine to counter oxidative stress.
  • This pathogen deploys cysteine as one of the essential molecules in its defence mechanism against high oxygen levels.
  • Entamoeba expresses two crucial enzymes for synthesising cysteine. Researchers from JNU have characterised and determined the molecular structures of both these crucial enzymes.


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