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Parasitol Res. 2004 Mar;92(4):289-98. Epub 2004 Jan 13.

Characterisation and differentiation of pathogenic and non-pathogenic Acanthamoeba strains by their protein and antigen profiles.

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  • 1Department of Medical Parasitology, Clinical Institute of Hygiene and Medical Microbiology, University of Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15, 1095 Vienna, Austria.


Free-living amoebae of the genus Acanthamoeba are the causative agents of Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) and granulomatous amoebic encephalitis. Acanthamoebae occur ubiquitously in the environment and are thus a constant cause of antigenic stimulation. In a previous study we have shown that compared to control sera, AK patients exhibit markedly lower immunoreactivities to whole cell antigen of Acanthamoeba spp. As the pathogenicity of acanthamoebae primarily relies on the excretion of proteins, it was the aim of the present study to investigate the immunoreactivity of metabolic antigen from different Acanthamoeba strains of varying pathogenicity. Three Acanthamoeba strains, one highly pathogenic, one non-pathogenic but thermophilic and one non-thermophilic non-pathogenic, were used for antigen extraction. The antigen was harvested before and after contact with human cells and all strains were tested with AK sera and with sera from healthy individuals. It was shown that the somatic protein profiles of the Acanthamoeba strains correlated to the morphological groups, and that within morphological group II-the group associated with AK-the profiles of the metabolic antigens correlated to strain pathogenicity. Moreover, it was shown that the control sera showed markedly higher immunoreactivities than the sera of the AK patients and that this immunoreactivity was generally higher to the non-pathogenic strains than to the pathogenic strain. Altogether our results once again raise the question of whether there is an immunological predisposition in AK. To our knowledge this is the first study on the immunoreactivity of metabolic antigen of acanthamoebae.

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