I hadn’t been feeling quite right since Christmas… Upset stomach, loose bowel motions, no appetite, and worst of all I didn’t even feel like a glass of wine in the evenings! The symptoms weren’t that severe, unfortunately not even bad enough to keep me off work, but they just grumbled on and on…
After a few weeks of this, it was time to call in the help of my microbiology laboratory. And sure enough, the enzyme immunoassay for Giardia was positive on my stool sample. I was quite glad it was positive, because at least I had an answer for my symptoms, but also because I hate unnecessary laboratory testing!
I self-prescribed myself some oral metronidazole (“tut, tut…”), at the high dose that is recommended for Giardiasis. At the higher dosage, it is not a particularly pleasant medicine to take. It turned my urine so brown, I found myself checking my eyes for jaundice! It also made my morning coffee taste like dishwater.
I now feel much better, back to my normal incorrigible self. Looking back in retrospect, it was a classic textbook case of giardiasis. I have no idea where I got it from, and will probably never know! I don’t envy those who work in the murky waters of Public Health.
There is no better way of learning than experiencing the disease yourself. I would not recommend this however for lots of other infections. Giardiasis is probably one of the “better” ones to catch.
Another good way of learning about a particular infection is to get to find out its history. Giardiasis is fascinating in this respect. Giardia trophozoites were first observed in 1681 by Anthony Leeuwenhoek in his very own stool samples, on his funny looking microscopes. Thus it has to be regarded as one of the first infections to be diagnosed by a “laboratory”.
The name Giardia lamblia was in recognition of a French zoologist, Alfred Giard, and a Czech physician, Vilem Lambl, who each contributed to the description of giardia trophozoites. Initially called Cercomonas intestinalis, it only became known as Giardia lamblia in 1915. It is also still known as Giardia intestinalis.
However none of these people mentioned actually made the connection between Giardia lamblia and infectious diarrhoea! In fact it wasn’t actually confirmed as a pathogen until the 1970s.
So my awareness of Giardiasis has now increased considerably, and we should all have a low threshold for testing for it in patients with chronic gastrointestinal upset, unexplained weight loss, failure to thrive, etc.
Apparently 200 million people worldwide are infected with Giardia lamblia, so I am not the only one!