Protozoan infection medical illness natural treatment
June 1 2017 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

More than 70 species of protozoan and helminth parasites can reach humans by food and water. The majority of food and waterborne infections of parasitic origin are related to poverty, low sanitation, and old food habits.
   Some parasites show a cosmopolitan distribution, others a more restricted distribution due to their complex life cycles, which need the presence of one or more intermediate hosts. Of this large number of pathogens, only Toxoplasma gondii can be transmitted to humans by two different ways, i.e., by cysts present in infected meat and by oocysts contaminating food and water.
   Eleven helminthic species (Taenia saginata, Taenia solium, Taenia asiatica, Trichinella spiralis, Tr. nativa, Tr. britovi, Tr. pseudospiralis, Tr. murrelli, Tr nelsoni, Tr. papuae and Tr. zimbabwensis) can grow in meat of different animal species and can be transmitted to humans by the consumption of raw meat or meat products.  
   Twenty trematode species, four cestode species and seven nematode species can infect humans through the consumption of raw sea- and/or fresh-water food (fishes, molluscs, frogs, tadpoles, camarons, crayfishes).
   Six species of Cryptosporidium, Isospora belli, Cyclospora cayetanensis, Giardia duodenalis and Entamoeba histolytica/E. dispar can contaminate food and water. Among the helminths, seven trematode species, seven cestode species and five species of nematodes can reach humans by contaminated food and water. Diagnostic and detection methods that can be carried out routinely on food and water samples are available only for few parasites (Cryptosporidium sp., Giardia sp., Anisakidae, Trichinella sp., Taenia sp.), i.e., for parasites which represent a risk to human populations living in industrialised countries.

Protozoa and Diarrhea
Intestinal protozoa are increasingly being studied because of their association with acute and chronic diarrhea in immunocompromised patients as well as those with a normal immune system. Various community outbreaks due to contamination of water or food with these protozoa have further highlighted their importance in public health. Among these important pathogens are Giardia duodenalis, Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidium parvum, Cyclospora cayetanensis, Isospora belli, and microsporidia. Except for the cyst-forming G. duodenalis and E. histolytica, the others are intracellular and form spores which are passed out with the feces. These organisms are also found in various animals and birds and zoonotic transmission is thought to occur. These infections are distributed worldwide, with a higher prevalence in developing compared to developed countries.  Higher prevalence rates are seen in rural compared to urban communities.

Natural Treatment for Protozoan Infections, alternative therapy
Plant essential oils (and/or active components) can be used as alternatives or adjuncts to current antiparasitic therapies. Garlic oil has broad-spectrum activity against Trypanosoma, Plasmodium, Giardia and Leishmania, and Cochlospermum planchonii and Croton cajucara oils specifically inhibit Plasmodium falciparum and Leishmania amazonensis, respectively. Garlic has numerous health benefits.

Q. I have been diagnosed with Cyclospora infection and am sulfa allergic so am attempting to find a natural treatment. You don't mention Cycloplasma specifically in the list of Protozoan that garlic has broad spectrum-activity against, though Cyclospora is mention in the article. Do you know if garlic will also work for Cyclospora? If not, is there any other natural treatment that would ie. black walnut green-hull, wormwood, clove?
   A. I have not treated anyone with this infection so I do not know at this time, the natural treatments you mention are worth a try.

Protozoan Parasites in Food
The common protozoa in food contamination are Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Cyclospora, and Toxoplasma. The protozoan parasites Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and Cyclospora have proven potential to cause waterborne and foodborne illness or disease. Toxoplasma gondii has been considered a risk in specific cases, but humans are not its primary host. Cryptosporidium and Giardia are widespread in the environment, particularly the aquatic environment, and major outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis have occurred as a result of contaminated drinking water. Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and Cyclospora have potential significance in the preparation and consumption of fresh produce and in catering practice, in which ready-to-eat foods may be served that have not received heat treatment. None of the three organisms Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and Cyclospora has been shown to be a problem for heat processed food or tap water that has undergone appropriate treatment at a water treatment works. All three are sensitive to standard pasteurisation techniques. Although humans are not a primary host for T. gondii, the potential exists for both waterborne and foodborne toxoplasmosis. Parasitic protozoa do not multiply in foods, but they may survive in or on moist foods for months in cool, damp environments. Their ecology makes control of these parasites difficult.

Preventing Food Borne Protozoan Infections
Major waterborne cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis outbreaks associated with contaminated drinking water have been linked to evidence of suboptimal treatment. Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts are particularly more resistant than Giardia lamblia cysts to removal and inactivation by conventional water treatment (coagulation, sedimentation, filtration and chlorine disinfection).
     For general control of parasitic protozoa in the food chain, the following steps are necessary: - Follow good hygienic practice in food service and catering industries.- Minimise dissemination of cysts and oocysts in the farming environment and via human waste management.- Include these microorganisms in Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans of water suppliers, industries or sectors that use fresh produce, and operations in which contaminated process or ingredient water could end up in the product (e.g., where water supplies may become contaminated).

Malnutrition and Protozoa
Malnutrition including vitamin A and iron deficiency and parasitic diseases have a strikingly similar geographical distribution with the same people experiencing both insults together for much of their lives. Parasitic infections are thought to contribute to child malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency through subtle reduction in digestion and absorption, chronic inflammation and loss of nutrients. Parasites may affect the intake of food; it's subsequent digestion and absorption, metabolism and the maintenance of nutrient pools. The most important parasites related to nutritional status are intestinal parasites especially soil transmitted helminthes, Giardia duodenalis, Entamoeba histolytica, followed by other parasites such as the coccidia, Schistosoma sp. and malarial parasites.

Pollution and Protozoa
Attention to worldwide pollution of the coastal marine environment has focused primarily on toxic algal blooms and pathogenic bacteria that multiply in nutrient-rich waters. However, massive but unseen amounts of feces from humans, their pets, and their domesticated animals are discharged, dumped, or carried in runoff, bringing encysted zoonotic protozoan parasites to estuaries and coastal waters. Here, they contaminate bathing beaches, are filtered and concentrated by shellfish eaten by humans and marine mammals, and infect a wide range of marine animal hosts.

The epidemiology of human microsporidia infections is not completely understood. Two species, Enterocytozoon bieneusi and Encephalitozoon intestinalis, are associated with gastrointestinal disease in humans and it is believed that human to human as well as animal to human infections occur. However, the importance of zoonotic infections has not been fully characterised. G. duodenalis cysts, microsporidia and Cryptosporidium oocysts have been detected in various ground water resources.

Amebiasis causes approximately 70,000 deaths annually and is the third cause of death due to parasites worldwide. It is treated primarily with metronidazole, which has adverse side effects, is mutagenic and carcinogenic, and emergence of resistance is an increasing concern.

Malaria is caused by plasmodium, a protozoa, a single-cell organism.

Q. Is curcumin helpful in protozoa infection treatment, an alternative therapy?
   A. I have not seen any studies with curcumin and protozoa infection treatment.