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Korean J Parasitol. 2007 Mar;45(1):11-8.

Natural occurrence of Mycobacterium as an endosymbiont of Acanthamoeba isolated from a contact lens storage case.

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Department of Parasitology, Pusan National University School of Medicine, Busan 602-739, Korea.


Recent in vitro studies have revealed that a certain Mycobacterium can survive and multiply within free-living amoebae. It is believed that protozoans function as host cells for the intracellular replication and evasion of Mycobacterium spp. under harmful conditions. In this study, we describe the isolation and characterization of a bacterium naturally observed within an amoeba isolate acquired from a contact lens storage case. The bacterium multiplied within Acanthamoeba, but exerted no cytopathic effects on the amoeba during a 6-year amoebic culture. Transmission electron microscopy showed that the bacteria were randomly distributed within the cytoplasm of trophozoites and cysts of Acanthamoeba. On the basis of the results of 18S rRNA gene analysis, the amoeba was identified as A. lugdunensis. A 16S rRNA gene analysis placed this bacterium within the genus Mycobacterium. The bacterium evidenced positive reactivity for acid-fast and fluorescent acid-fast stains. The bacterium was capable of growth on the Middlebrook 7H11-Mycobacterium-specific agar. The identification and characterization of bacterial endosymbionts of free-living protozoa bears significant implications for our understanding of the ecology and the identification of other atypical mycobacterial pathogens.

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