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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2000 Apr;13(2):318-31.

Pathogenesis of intestinal amebiasis: from molecules to disease.

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  • 1Center for Research and Advanced Studies, Mexico City, Mexico.


In spite of a wealth of knowledge on the biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology of Entamoeba histolytica, little has been done to apply these advances to our understanding of the lesions observed in patients with intestinal amebiasis. In this review, the pathological and histological findings in acute amebic colitis are related to the molecular mechanisms of E. histolytica pathogenicity described to date. Infection of the human colon by E. histolytica produces focal ulceration of the intestinal mucosa, resulting in dysentery (diarrhea with blood and mucus). Although a complete picture has not yet been achieved, the basic mechanisms involved in the production of focal lytic lesions include complex multifactorial processes in which lectins facilitate adhesion, proteases degrade extracellular matrix components, porins help nourish the parasite and may also kill incoming polymorphonuclear leukocytes and macrophages, and motility is used by the parasite to invade deeper layers of the colon. In addition, E. histolytica has developed mechanisms to modulate the immune response during acute infection. Nevertheless, much still needs to be unraveled to understand how this microscopic parasite has earned its well-deserved histolytic name.

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