Australian cases of Invasive Amebiasive, an infection caused by an intestinal amoeba prevalent in gay men, are on the rise.

While still rare, researchers warn that the trend could become more serious if simple health precautions are not followed.

Invasive Amebiasis (IA), an infection caused by the pathogenic amoeba Entamoeba histolytica, has long been recognised in Asian populations of men who have sex with men, but has never been common in developed nations.

But a recent study conducted by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention at St Vincent’s Hospital indicates that, while still rare, the infection is beginning to be seen in Australian populations.

The paper warns that the emergence of E. Histolytica in MSM is of public health concern because it has the potential to become endemic in this population in Australia and to cause severe disease.

The paper looked at five cases of IA in Sydney men and found that three of the subjects had contracted the infection after being involved in high risk behaviour at sex on premises venues. The others had been infected after they or their partner had travelled to Asia.

ACON’s community health director Dermot Ryan said while the infection was not of particular concern yet, the MSM population is susceptible to a number of intestinal parasites which can be prevented through simple hygiene measures.

These things are always good to remind gay men that these little amoebas are out there and that there are some simple things that they can do in regards to looking after themselves, he told Sydney Star Observer.

Washing their hands after sex is a big one, particularly if they’ve handled a used condom. Use gloves for arse play. Use a dam if you’re into rimming and clean sex toys after use. It’s just those simple hygiene issues that sometimes we all get a bit lax with.

The research also indicated that HIV positive men were more prone to infection as a result of a lowered immune system.

What the research showed in relation to HIV positive men is not that there is an increased risk, but that it seemed to be more prevalent. Now that could be because HIV positive men tend to take better care of their health and are therefore more likely to see a GP about something, Ryan said.

It could also be that the symptoms are more pronounced in positive men -” which can lead to problems in itself. If you are dehydrated or have diarrhoea and are vomiting, the chances are that your medication isn’t going to have the same level of effect.

Ryan said symptoms developed extremely quickly and could appear like food poisoning.

Men who are experiencing diarrhoea, stomach cramping and nausea that seems unrelated to food should head to a sexual health clinic which can test for a number of intestinal parasites.

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