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Health effects of Acanthamoeba spp. and its potential for waterborne transmission.

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  • 1Office of Science and Technology, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Mc 4304T, Washington, DC 20460, USA.


Risk from Acanthamoeba keratitis is complex, depending upon the virulence of the particular strain, exposure, trauma, or other stress to the eye, and host immune response. Bacterial endosymbionts may also play a factor in the pathogenicity of Acanthamoeba. Which factor(s) may be the most important is not clear. The ability of the host to produce IgA antibodies in tears may be a significant factor. The immune response of the host is a significant risk factor for GAE infection. If so, then a certain subpopulation with an inability to produce IgA in the tears may be at greatest risk. There was no sufficient data on the occurrence or types of Acanthamoeba in tapwater in the U.S. Published work on amoebal presence in tapwater does not provide information on the type of treatment the water received or the level of residual chlorine. Assessment of the pathogenicity by cell culture and molecular methods of Acanthamoeba in tapwater would also be useful in the risk assessment process for drinking water. The possibility that Acanthamoeba spp. might serve as vectors for bacterial infections from water sources also should be explored. The bacterial endosymbionts include an interesting array of pathogens such as Vibrio cholerae and Legionella pneumophila, both of which are well recognized waterborne/water-based pathogens. Work is needed to determine if control of Acanthamoeba spp. is needed to control water-based pathogens in water supplies.

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