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Infection. 1985 Nov-Dec;13(6):251-6.

Acanthamoeba, an opportunistic microorganism: a review.


Granulomatous amebic encephalitis due to Acanthamoeba spp. usually occurs in chronically ill and debilitated individuals. Some of these patients may have received immunosuppressive therapy. Another infection due to Acanthamoeba spp. has been corneal ulcerations which usually occur after minimal trauma to the corneal epithelium (1). In contrast, primary amebic meningoencephalitis due to Naegleria fowleri usually occurs in healthy, young individuals with a history of swimming in heated swimming pools, in manmade lakes or with recent contact with contaminated water and practising water-related sports. Subclinical infections due to free-living amebas are probably common in healthy individuals with the protozoa living as "normal flora" in the nose and throat. It is possible that in humans, antibodies and cell-mediated immunity protect the host in such ordinary circumstances against invasive infection. In debilitated and chronically ill individuals, depressed cellmediated immunity may allow these protozoa to proliferate, allowing a fulminant "opportunistic" infection to develop. In the case of acanthamoebic keratitis, it is important to keep in mind that the temperature and moist environment of the eye serve as a good medium for the growth and proliferation of the amebas and is not necessarily associated with immunosuppression but rather with trauma. This review confirms that opportunistic free-living amebic infections occur with increased frequency in patients treated with steroids, radiotherapy, chemotherapeutic drugs or with broad-spectrum antibiotics and suggest that the mechanism of such infection may be depressed cell-mediated immunity or some other alteration of the immune system, like acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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