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J Clin Microbiol. 2002 Nov;40(11):4081-90.

Remarkable genetic polymorphism among Entamoeba histolytica isolates from a limited geographic area.

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  • 1Department of Parasitology, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Shinjuku-ku. Department of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, Keio University School of Medicine, Shinjuku-ku. Tokyo Metropolitan Kiyose Children's Hospital, Kiyose-shi, Tokyo, Japan.


In order to understand genetic polymorphisms among Entamoeba histolytica strains in a limited geographic area and among restricted social populations, we studied nucleotide polymorphism in DNA regions that do not encode proteins (locus 1-2 and locus 5-6) and in genes coding for chitinase and for serine-rich E. histolytica protein. Thirty E. histolytica isolates from domestically infected Japanese amebiasis patients (male homosexuals and residents in institutions for the mentally handicapped) and four reference strains were examined. PCR revealed remarkable polymorphisms in both the number and size of the PCR fragments containing these loci. Polymorphisms in lengths, types, and numbers of internal repeat units were observed in locus 1-2 and the repeat-containing region of serine-rich E. histolytica protein among the Japanese isolates. In contrast, polymorphism at locus 5-6 was observed almost exclusively in the number of repeats of a 16-nucleotide unit. The repeat-containing region of chitinase appeared to be the least polymorphic among the four loci with a single dominant genotype representing 66% (20 out of 30) of all of the isolates. Isolates obtained from male homosexuals showed a more complex genetic polymorphism than those from residents in institutions. Considering all four polymorphic loci together, all 19 Japanese isolates from male homosexuals were distinct. In contrast, all isolates obtained from mass-infection cases at a single institution had an identical genotype, suggesting that these cases were caused by a single E. histolytica strain. No significant correlation was found between genotypes and zymodemes or between genotypes and clinical presentations, e.g., colitis or liver abscess. Certain genotypes were observed with higher frequencies in male homosexuals or residents of institutions. These data indicate that genotyping of the E. histolytica isolates by using these four polymorphic loci could serve as a tool to fingerprint individual isolates. We propose that genotyping of ameba isolates should help to determine geographic origins of isolates and routes of transmission.

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