Amoebic liver abscess pathophysiology

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Yamuna Kondapally, M.B.B.S[2]


Ameoebic liver abscess is caused by a protozoan Entamoeba histolytica. It is the most common extraintestinal manifestation of amoebiasis. The mode of transmission of Entamoeba histolytica include fecal-oral route (ingestion of food and water contaminated with feces containing cysts), sexual transmission via oral-rectal route in homosexuals, vector transmission via flies, cockroaches, and rodents.[1][2] Hepatocyte programmed cell death induced by Entamoeba histolytica causes amoebic liver abscess. The infection is transmitted to liver by portal venous system.[3]


Entamoeba histolytica
Intestinal amoebiasis
• Asymptomatic cyst passers
Acute amoebic colitis
   • Mucosal disease
   • Transmural disease
   • Ulcerative post dysentric colitis
• Amoeboma
• Amoebic stricture
Extra intestinal amoebiasis
Amoebic liver abscess
Perforation and peritonitis
• Pleuropulmonary amoebiasis
• Amoebic pericarditis
Cutaneous amoebiasis


Variants of amoebic liver abscesses

Multiple liver abscesses Left lobe abscess Compression lesions Extension of the abscess
  • 15% of patients have multiple liver abscesses
  • Presenting features include:
  • Complications include:
  • Management includes:

Aspiration + anti-amoebic drugs

  • 7% of patients present perforated abscesses
  • Rupture of abscess into the following

Gross pathology

  • The amoebic liver abscesses are well circumscribed regions which contain necrotic material (dead hepatocytes, liquefied cells and cellular debris) and the surrounding fibrinous border.
  • The adjacent liver parenchyma is usually normal.
  • The abscesses are single or multiple.
  • The abscess cavity may be filled with chocolate colored pasty material (anchovy sauce-like).


Microscopic pathology

Amoebic liver abscess Amoebic liver abscess


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  2. 2.0 2.1 Stanley SL (2003). "Amoebiasis". Lancet. 361 (9362): 1025–34. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12830-9. PMID 12660071.
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  7. Berninghausen O, Leippe M (1997). "Necrosis versus apoptosis as the mechanism of target cell death induced by Entamoeba histolytica". Infect Immun. 65 (9): 3615–21. PMC 175514. PMID 9284127.
  8. Seydel KB, Li E, Swanson PE, Stanley SL (1997). "Human intestinal epithelial cells produce proinflammatory cytokines in response to infection in a SCID mouse-human intestinal xenograft model of amebiasis". Infect Immun. 65 (5): 1631–9. PMC 175187. PMID 9125540.
  9. Que X, Reed SL (2000). "Cysteine proteinases and the pathogenesis of amebiasis". Clin Microbiol Rev. 13 (2): 196–206. PMC 100150. PMID 10755997.
  10. Salata RA, Pearson RD, Ravdin JI (1985). "Interaction of human leukocytes and Entamoeba histolytica. Killing of virulent amebae by the activated macrophage". J Clin Invest. 76 (2): 491–9. doi:10.1172/JCI111998. PMC 423849. PMID 2863284.
  11. Braga LL, Ninomiya H, McCoy JJ, Eacker S, Wiedmer T, Pham C; et al. (1992). "Inhibition of the complement membrane attack complex by the galactose-specific adhesion of Entamoeba histolytica". J Clin Invest. 90 (3): 1131–7. doi:10.1172/JCI115931. PMC 329975. PMID 1381719.
  12. Kelsall BL, Ravdin JI (1993). "Degradation of human IgA by Entamoeba histolytica". J Infect Dis. 168 (5): 1319–22. PMID 8228372.
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