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Microbiology. 2004 Sep;150(Pt 9):2837-42.

Balamuthia mandrillaris from soil samples.

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  • 1State of California Department of Health Services, Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory, 850 Marina Bay Parkway, Richmond, CA 94804, USA.


Balamuthia mandrillaris amoebas are recognized as a causative agent of granulomatous amoebic encephalitis, a disease that is usually fatal. They were first recognized when isolated from the brain of a mandrill baboon that died in the San Diego Zoo Wild Life Animal Park. Subsequently, the amoebas have been found in a variety of animals, including humans (young and old, immunocompromised and immunocompetent persons), in countries around the world. Until recently, the amoebas had not been recovered from the environment and their free-living status was in question. The recovery of a Balamuthia amoeba from a soil sample taken from a plant at the home of a child from California, USA, who died of Balamuthia amoebic encephalitis, was reported previously. In a continued investigation, a second amoeba was isolated from soil that was obtained from an outdoor potted plant in a spatially unrelated location. A comparison of these two environmental amoebas that were isolated from different soils with the amoeba that was obtained from the child's clinical specimen is reported here. Included are the isolation procedure for the amoebas, their growth requirements, their immunological response to anti-Balamuthia serum, their sensitivity to a selection of antimicrobials and sequence analysis of their 16S rRNA gene. The evidence is consistent that the amoebas isolated from both soil samples and the clinical isolate obtained from the Californian child are B. mandrillaris.

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