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Crit Rev Microbiol. 1996;22(4):295-314.

Antioxidant defense mechanisms in parasitic protozoa.

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  • Division of Geographic Medicine, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-4983, USA.


Many of the parasitic protozoa, such as Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia, Trypanosoma, Leishmania, and Plasmodium, are considered to be anaerobes because they can be grown in vitro only under conditions of reduced oxygen tension. However, these parasitic protozoa have been found to be aerotolerant or microaerophilic, and also to consume oxygen to a certain extent. Furthermore, these organisms are highly susceptible to exogenous reactive oxygen species, such as hydrogen peroxide. They must, therefore, detoxify both oxygen and free radical products of enzymatic reactions. However, they lack some or all of the usual antioxidant defense mechanisms present in aerobic or other aerotolerant cells, such as catalase, superoxide dismutase, reduced glutathione, and the glutathione-recycling enzymes glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase. Instead, they possess alternative mechanisms for detoxification similar to those known to exist in certain prokaryotes. Although the functional aspects of these alternative mechanisms are yet to be understood completely, they could provide new insights into the biochemical peculiarities of these enigmatic pathogens.

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