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Despite the global distribution of the intestinal protozoan its clinical picture remains unclear. This results from underdiagnosis: microscopic screening methods either lack sensitivity (wet preparation) or fail to reveal (formalin-fixed sample).


In a retrospective study setting, we characterised the clinical picture of dientamoebiasis and compared it with giardiasis. In addition, we evaluated an improved approach to formalin-fixed samples for suitability in diagnostics.


This study comprised four parts: (i) a descriptive part scrutinising rates of findings; (ii) a methodological part analysing an approach to detect -like structures in formalin samples; (iii) a clinical part comparing demographics and symptoms between patients with dientamoebiasis (n = 352) and giardiasis (n = 272), and (iv) a therapeutic part (n = 89 patients) investigating correlation between faecal eradication and clinical improvement.


The rate of findings increased 20-fold after introducing criteria for -like structures in formalin-fixed samples (88.9% sensitivity and 83.3% specificity). A further increase was seen after implementing faecal PCR. Compared with patients with giardiasis, the symptoms in the group lasted longer and more often included abdominal pain, cramping, faecal urgency and loose rather than watery stools. Resolved symptoms correlated with successful faecal eradication (p < 0.001).


Previously underdiagnosed, has become the most frequently recorded pathogenic enteroparasite in Finland. This presumably results from improved diagnostics with either PCR or detection of -like structures in formalin-fixed samples, an approach applicable also in resource-poor settings. Symptoms of dientamoebiasis differ slightly from those of giardiasis; patients with distressing symptoms require treatment.


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