Saturday, June 15, 2013

Blastocystis - 'Monsters Inside Me'

I woke up this morning, grabbed my smartphone and went on to check my Blastocystis Google Alert. There was one entry, and this was the one:

Now, I could probably do a post with hundreds of examples showing how the internet abounds with material that may misguide/misinform people on Blastocystis pathogenicity. As such, this video is a nice example of how you can diligently manipulate people into thinking that severe, debilitating disease can be caused by Blastocystis.

Now, before I move on, I have to say that if this is a documentary, I'm very sorry for the couple in this video who have suffered the pain and consequences of sudden debilitating illness. Precautions have to be taken when you are exposed to sewage to avoid contracting infections.

The symptoms that are described in the video - including the weight loss - could be attributable to many different bacterial and viral pathogens, even parasites such as Cryptosporidium and maybe also Giardia; to this end, the video provides us with no information on other pathogens found in the patient's stool. Even in the event that Blastocystis was the only potential pathogen found, other pathogens may have been overlooked if sensitive diagnostics were not taken into use.

It is possible that Bill Wilson contracted Blastocystis only after signing on to his plumbing contract, but it is also possible that he had it a long time before. Many of us (up to 30% of the healthy Danish population) are colonised, and colonisation is often chronic.

We are informed that the patient receives a course of metronidazole, a drug that is often used to treat Blastocystis, but which in fact has a limited efficacy in vivo when used alone. Bill apparently clears his symptoms after metronidazole treatment, but we do not know whether in fact Bill also clears his Blastocystis infection, which could be determined by post-treatment stool tests. Metronidazole is capable of clearing a large number of anaerobic bacterial and protozoan species, and it is not unlikely that the drug has eradicated one or more pathogens that Bill could have contracted during his work (or elsewhere), and so symptom relief may be due to clearance of a non-Blastocystis pathogen instead.

Finally, it may be so that symptom disappearance coincides with spontaneous pathogen resolution. Cryptosporidiosis, for instance, can cause quite debilitating disease even in immunocompetent individuals, causing the infected individuals to lose a lot of water due to diarrhoea lasting for days or even weeks, but the disease is usually self-limiting.

So, this video tells a story that makes the audience automatically think that Bill Wilson's disease is due to Blastocystis. Apart from the statement 'Complications from a Blastocystis hominis infection can be fatal' and the explanation of how metronidazole works on Blastocystis, there is not really any statements or information in the video that do not make sense; the video is just put together in a way so that the viewer automatically deduces that Blastocystis is the culprit. A diligent act of manipulation!

Please note that this post is about how information on Blastocystis can be conveyed to an audience and not about the particular case as such.


Stensvold CR, Smith HV, Nagel R, Olsen KE, & Traub RJ (2010). Eradication of Blastocystis carriage with antimicrobials: reality or delusion? Journal of clinical gastroenterology, 44 (2), 85-90 PMID: 19834337


  1. Hi there,

    I've recently been diagnosed with a Blastocytis infection through doing a Comprehensive Stool Test with Parasitology (Genova Diagnostics Lab). I've been suffering from a lot of digestive issues (severe bloating and flatulence, abdominal pain, re-occurring diarrhea and/or frequent loose stools (sometimes up to 6-7 times a day), etc.). I've also been suffering with at times extreme fatigue, body pain and mental fog and when it all started 3 continuous weeks of severe tremors!! I've had these symptoms for over two years and the Dr's couldn't do anything for me (after ordering lots of tests which all came back negative!!). So I finally did the stool test which found some bacterial overgrowth along with lots of parsites (Blastocytis). I'm now taking an herbal formula (Berberine, black walnut, wormwood, etc.) in addition to garlic pills and aregano oil. I've been taking these for almost three weeks now and I'm experiencing a lot of improvement in all my symptoms (no more bloating, brain fog, weakness, etc). I must say after one week of taking these medications I had a couple of days that felt worse than ever (so weak to even move or talk, extreme body pain, extreme bloating, etc) and then after those two days I've been better than I've ever been in two years! So, I was wondering if you know and/or have some references about treating parasites with these herbs and their efficacy and/or potential side effects, and if you know about the die-off reaction (which I think is what I experiences after a week of medication).


  2. I was informed I had blastocystis hominis a month ago from a stool sample. I've tried a 5 day course of bactrim and also a 2mg dose o tinidazole to no avail. im still experiencing up to 7 watery stools per day. This had been going on for a month now. I also have crohns disease but had a colonoscopy and endoscopy a week ago and they said everything was fine in regards to my crohns. I have a feeling if I'm prescribed metronidazole it still won't be effective. If it's not blasto causing my diarrhoea, what could it possibly be?