Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Blastocystis Hominis

I know I already told you about my vacation to Mexico a couple weeks ago, and I think I mentioned that my spouse and I both were not feeling well at the end of that trip.   Well it turns out to be more than my regular digestive problems, I knew it had to be because I had a lot more gas, and a serious case of the runs the 6th day of our vacation.  After being home for 5 days we both went to local clinics to be checked for Montezuma's because we just were not feeling any better.

My spouse went to one clinic on his way to work, and I went to another one later in the day.  Neither one of us thought it really mattered which clinic you go to, just try to find one with a short line (I didn't it took 2 hours to see a doctor).  

We both came home with lab requisitions, for what looked like the same tests, but we had different sample vials to put them in, strange but we followed the directions and dropped off the samples together at the same lab the next day.  (you notice I am not giving you the details of the samples or the tests cause you really don't want to know!)

I called the clinic I went to 5 days later, and was told my tests were all normal, but I was still not feeling any better.  So I made an appointment to see my family doctor, the earliest one was Monday, 4 days away.  I also called a dietitian, as I wanted to investigate that fructose intolerance or find any solution to my digestive problems!  The dietitian, said to make sure I am taking probiotics and Omega 3's and to see my doctor first to rule out any other bowel diseases.

They next day (Friday), my spouse was called by his clinic to say his tests were positive and to come back to see a doctor.  But he was feeling better by then, and I wasn't?  Turns out he has a parasite:

(Blastocystis Infection) 
What is Blastocystosis? 
Blastocystosis (BLAST-oh-sis-TOS-is) is an illness caused by a microscopic parasite, 
Blastocystis (also known as Blastocystis hominis). Once a person or animal has been 
infected with Blastocystis, the parasite lives in the intestine and is passed in feces. Because 
the parasite is protected by an outer shell, it can survive outside the body and in the 
environment for long periods in some cases. 
During the past 2 decades, Blastocystis infection has become recognized as a common 
cause of waterborne disease in humans in the United States. Blastocystis can be found 
worldwide and within every region of the United States. 

Blastocystis 'hominis' infection can cause a variety of intestinal signs or symptoms, which include
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas or flatulence
  • Greasy stools that tend to float
  • Upset stomach or nausea
Patients also report fatigue, skin rashes, and joint pain.  Some people with Blastocystis 'hominis'infection have severe symptoms, while others have no symptoms at all.  In this class of disease, researchers have found that people with more severe symptoms may be infected with more virulent types of microbes, and also may have a genetic makeup which causes the microbe to produce more severe illness.

How long after infection do symptoms appear?

That is difficult to say.  In animal studies, symptoms of Blastocystosis appear within two weeks after becoming infected.  In humans, some people may have few symptoms when initially infected, but the symptoms may become worse over a period of months or years.

How long will symptoms last?

In some patients, Blastocystosis is an acute illness, meaning that symptoms will last for a short time (several weeks).  In other patients, the disease may become chronic, and symptoms will last indefinitely.  Researchers are working to understand why some infections produce chronic illness, while others clear on their own."

So now I have to wonder why my test showed nothing?  I decided not to wait for my doctor's appointment on Monday, and went to the same clinic as my spouse.  The nice doctor there, gave me the kit to be retested, but in the mean time he told me to start taking the antibiotics right away.  Strangely the prescription he gave me was for "metronidazole", 
and the one my spouse got was for "Sulfatrim/trimethoprim".......why?   

I googled the medications and they are 2 of the 3 antibiotics used to treat this parasite.  As usual there are many websites about this parasite and it's treatment.  The more I read the more I wish I hadn't.  The medication I am taking, doesn't always work, depends on the person, not only that, it tasted awful, worse than awful, it is hard to put it on your tongue without gagging, and then my mouth tastes like metal, nothing I eat or drink will take that taste away, and of course the pill my spouse is taking doesn't do that! (is it just me, or are you starting to feel my frustration!)  Also of note, the pill my spouse is taking is mentioned on one website as 84% effective, much better than the pill I have, but on other sites, all antibiotics have a possibility of not working.

"What can be done for patients when treatments don't work?  Many patients report improvement with elaborate exclusion diets, which usually include avoiding sugar, coffee, tea, soda, frut, wheat, rice, corn, red meat, processed foods, breakfast cereals, and high carbohydrate foods.  Because there is extensive overlap between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patinets, and Blastocystis patients, treatments to reduce the symptoms of IBS may be effective in Blastocystis infection."

Now this is sounding more like me, maybe I have had this parasite for years? (I am hoping it wasn't me that gave it to my spouse, but I really was quite sick in Mexico, and he got it first!)

So back to the doctor I go, I see my family doctor, tell her the story, I am hoping to change medications to the one my spouse has to get rid of this awful metal taste.  She says I shouldn't be taking any antibiotics until I have a positive test!  She also says that the pill my spouse it taking is the wrong one, and then goes into the dangers of taking antibiotics, including the high risk of getting "C diff" (I'll let you look that up.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clostridium_difficile)  This is even worse and I should not risk taking a medication I might not need.

So what about my problems then, what else can I do?  Have we ruled out all other bowel diseases?  She reluctantly referred me to a G.I. specialist, but warned me there is only one in our area, so it will be a long wait.  In the mean time we wait for the 2nd lab results.

On the positive side, just being on that antibiotic for 36 hours, made my tummy feel better, stopped the runs and some of the gas, but still all I can taste is metal!

When we first started researching this parasite, we found this website of one person's struggle to get rid it.  http://blastocystis-relief.com/blog/  It is interesting, but he did not use medications, and is selling a book, so I dismissed the site, but maybe I will have to go the natural route with a dietitian.

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