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J Clin Microbiol. 1996 Apr;34(4):947-52.

Diagnosis of disseminated microsporidian Encephalitozoon hellem infection by PCR-Southern analysis and successful treatment with albendazole and fumagillin.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Tulane Regional Primate Research Center, Covington, Louisiana 70433, USA.


A 37-year old AIDS patient presented with foreign body sensation. Microsporidia were detected in smears from a conjunctival swab and urine sediment stained with calcofluor and a modified trichrome blue stain and by indirect fluorescent-antibody staining with murine polyclonal antiserum raised against Encephalitozoon hellem. This antiserum cross-reacted with other Encephalitozoon species, so PCR was performed to amplify the microsporidian ribosomal DNA (rDNA) with pan-Encephalitozoon primers. The PCR DNA products from the urine and conjunctival clinical specimens, along with the tissue culture-derived microsporidian controls, were assayed by Southern analysis with oligonucleotide probes specific for Encephalitozoon cuniculi, E. hellem, and Encephalitozoon (Septata) intestinalis. The PCR product amplified from the urine specimen hybridized with the E. hellem probe only, while insufficient DNA was amplified from the conjunctiva specimen for detection by Southern analysis. For corroboration of the PCR-Southern analysis results, aliquots of the urine and conjunctiva specimens were seeded onto RK-13 cell monolayers. The rDNA extracts of the cultured microsporidia were amplified by PCR with pan-Encephalitozoon primers, and the PCR DNA products were subjected to digestion with restriction endonuclease FokI. The amplified rDNA of both the urine and conjunctiva isolates generated digestion patterns that were identified to the E. hellem PCR rDNA digestion pattern. In addition, double-stranded heteroduplex mobility shift analysis with these PCR products indicated that the urine and conjunctiva isolates were identical to each other and to E. hellem. The patient was treated with albendazole and topical fumagillin and responded rapidly, with no recurrence of ophthalmologic signs. The results of this study demonstrate that PCR-Southern analysis provides a basis for distinguishing E. cuniculi, E. hellem, and E. intestinalis in clinical specimens.

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