Giardiasis: Causes & Symptoms

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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For nearly 300 million people around the world, giardiasis continues to be a dangerous and irritating parasitic infection. Let’s look at the causes and symptoms to understand this uncomfortable condition better.

What is Giardiasis?

Giardiasis is an infection of the small intestine caused by a parasite. Commonly known as beaver fever, since the infection is known to be widespread in the beaver population, this parasitic infection results in weakened nutritional absorption in the gut since the protozoans infect the cells of the duodenum.


Giardiasis spreads primarily through a parasite found in animal and human feces.

  • The primary source of infection is a flagellate protozoan called Giardia lamblia, which resides in the intestinal tracts of many types of animals around the world, and can easily be passed to humans.
  • The infection spreads to humans through contaminated drinking water and food, particularly for campers and hikers who drink from streams and lakes in the wild.
  • Contact with infected animals is another culprit.


Only 1/3 of infections become symptomatic, manifesting in the form of:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive gas
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flatulence

These symptoms can persist for 1-2 months, which can be disastrous for the nutritional health of an affected individual. While giardiasis is not fatal, a consistent lack of nutrients can negatively impact many of the body’s systems, as well as the digestive tract. Fortunately, even if the infection remains untreated, the body’s immune system normally takes care of it in short order.

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