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J Clin Microbiol. 1994 Nov;32(11):2760-8.

Polyclonal and monoclonal antibody and PCR-amplified small-subunit rRNA identification of a microsporidian, Encephalitozoon hellem, isolated from an AIDS patient with disseminated infection.

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  • 1Division of Parasitic Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3724.


Microsporidia are primitive, spore-forming, mitochondria-lacking, eukaryotic protozoa that are obligate intracellular parasites. They are known to parasitize almost every group of animals including humans. Recently, microsporidia have increasingly been found to infect patients with AIDS. Five genera (Encephalitozoon, Enterocytozoon, Nosema, Septata, and Pleistophora) of microsporidia are known to infect humans. Enterocytozoon organisms cause gastrointestinal disease in a majority of AIDS patients with microsporidiosis. However, a smaller, but an expanding, number of patients with AIDS are being diagnosed with ocular and disseminated infection with Encephalitozoon hellem. Although microsporidial spores can be identified in clinical samples by a staining technique such as one with Weber's chromotrope stain, identification to the species level is dependent on cumbersome and time-consuming electron microscopy. We have recently isolated and established in continuous culture several strains of E. hellem from urine, bronchoalveolar lavage, and sputum samples from AIDS patients with disseminated microsporidiosis. We developed polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies and PCR primers to a strain of E. hellem that can be used successfully to identify E. hellem from other species of microsporidia either in clinical specimens or in cultures established from clinical specimens. Since patients infected with Encephalitozoon spp. are known to respond favorably to albendazole, identification of the parasite to the species level would be invaluable in the treatment of disseminated microsporidiosis.

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