Entamoeba histolytica: an update

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Purpose of reviewOver the past decade, since it was formally recognized that Entamoeba histolytica and Entamoeba dispar were two distinct species, studies in this field have made dramatic in-roads into the understanding of E. histolytica and the pathogenesis of invasive amoebiasis. Over the same period it has also become clear that the true incidence of E. histolytica infection, particularly in vulnerable populations such as low socioeconomic children, is exceedingly high. Understanding the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and the molecular and genetic biology of the organism will not only lead to improved diagnostic and treatment options but, ultimately, to the development of a safe and efficacious vaccine.Recent findingsThe recent advances in the genetic and molecular sciences have increased our understanding of the mechanisms that make E. histolytica unique among enteric protozoa in causing invasive disease. In addition, host factors, which predispose individuals or populations to infection or disease, are beginning to be elucidated. New diagnostic tools specific to E. histolytica are being exploited by clinicians and researchers to identify and treat patients as well as to add to the knowledge of the epidemiology and natural history of this infection. The ultimate goal - eradication of disease - is theoretically feasible since humans and primates are the only reservoirs of E. histolytica. Many talented and dedicated individuals are pursuing the development of an effective and safe amoebiasis vaccine.SummaryE. histolytica remains an important pathogen in many populations of the world and although there has been substantial progress into understanding the disease major challenges still exist.

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