Giardia lamblia, also known as Giardia intestinalis, is a flagellated parasitic microorganism, that colonizes and reproduces in the small intestine, causing giardiasis. The parasite attaches to the epithelium by a ventral adhesive disc or sucker, and reproduces via binary fission. Giardiasis does not spread via the bloodstream, nor does it spread to other parts of the gastrointestinal tract, but remains confined to the lumen of the small intestine. Giardia trophozoites absorb their nutrients from the lumen of the small intestine, and are anaerobes. If the organism is split and stained, its characteristic pattern resembles the familiar "smiley face" symbol. Chief pathways of human infection include ingestion of untreated sewage, a phenomenon particularly common in many developing countries; contamination of natural waters also occurs in watersheds where intensive grazing occurs. Giardia infections occur worldwide, however Giardia lamblia is the most commonly identified intestinal parasite in the United States and Canada among children in day care centers, hikers, family members and immunocompromised adults. Approximately 20,000 cases per year in the United States are reported.
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