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Infect Genet Evol. 2008 Sep;8(5):698-707. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2008.05.004. Epub 2008 May 14.

Molecular epidemiology of amebiasis.

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Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, University of Virginia Health System, MR4 Building Room 2115, Lane Road, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Entamoeba histolytica, the causative agent of human amebiasis, remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in developing countries and is responsible for up to 100,000 deaths worldwide each year. Entamoeba dispar, morphologically indistinguishable from E. histolytica, is more common in humans in many parts of the world. Similarly Entamoeba moshkovskii, which was long considered to be a free-living ameba, is also morphologically identical to E. histolytica and E. dispar, and is highly prevalent in some E. histolytica endemic countries. However, the only species to cause disease in humans is E. histolytica. Most old epidemiological data on E. histolytica are unusable as the techniques employed do not differentiate between the above three Entamoeba species. Molecular tools are now available not only to diagnose these species accurately but also to study intra-species genetic diversity. Recent studies suggest that only a minority of all E. histolytica infections progress to the development of clinical symptoms in the host and there exist population level differences between the E. histolytica strains isolated from the asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals. Nevertheless the underlying factors responsible for variable clinical outcome of infection by E. histolytica remain largely unknown. We anticipate that the recently completed E. histolytica genome sequence and new molecular techniques will rapidly advance our understanding of the epidemiology and pathogenicity of amebiasis.

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