Parasitology Research

, Volume 115, Issue 5, pp 1871–1881 | Cite as

Genotypic, physiological, and biochemical characterization of potentially pathogenic Acanthamoeba isolated from the environment in Cairo, Egypt

  • Gihan Mostafa Tawfeek
  • Sawsan Abdel-Hamid Bishara
  • Rania Mohammad SarhanEmail author
  • Eman ElShabrawi Taher
  • Amira ElSaady Khayyal
Original Paper


Acanthamoebae are the most common opportunistic amphizoic protozoa that cause life-threatening granulomatous amoebic encephalitis in immunocompromised individuals and sight-threatening amoebic keratitis (AK) in contact lens wearers. The present work aimed to determine the presence of Acanthamoeba isolates in different environmental sources: water, soil, and dust in Cairo, Egypt and to characterize the pathogenic potential of the isolated Acanthamoeba using physiological and biochemical assays as well as determination of the genotypes in an attempt to correlate pathogenicity with certain genotypes. The study included the collection of 22 corneal scrapings from patients complaining of symptoms and signs indicative of acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) and 75 environmental samples followed by cultivation on non-nutrient agar plates preseeded with E. coli. Positive samples for Acanthamoeba were subjected to osmo- and thermo-tolerance assays and zymography analysis. Potentially pathogenic isolates were subjected to PCR amplification using genus-specific primer pair. Isolates were classified at the genotype level based on the sequence analysis of Acanthamoeba 18S rRNA gene (diagnostic fragment 3). The total detection rate for Acanthamoeba in environmental samples was 33.3 %, 31.4 % in water, 40 % in soil, and 20 % in dust samples. Three and two Acanthamoeba isolates from water and soil sources, respectively, had the potential for pathogenicity as they exhibited full range of pathogenic traits. Other 12 isolates were designated as weak potential pathogens. Only ten of the environmental isolates were positive in PCR and were classified by genotype analysis into T4 genotype (70 %), T3 (10 %) and T5 (20 %). Potential pathogens belonged to genotypes T4 (from water) and T5 (from soil) while weak potential pathogens belonged to genotypes T3 (from water) and T4 (from water and soil). Additionally, T7 genotype was isolated from keratitis patients. There is a considerable variation in the response of Acanthamoeba members of the same genotype to pathogenicity indicator assays making correlation of pathogenicity with certain genotypes difficult. Presence of potentially pathogenic Acanthamoeba isolates in habitats related directly to human populations represent a risk for human health. Isolation of Acanthamoeba genotype T7 from AK cases, which is commonly considered as nonpathogenic, might draw the attention to other Acanthamoeba genotypes considered as non pathogenic and reevaluate their role in production of human infections. To our knowledge, this is the first study on the presence and distribution of Acanthamoeba genotypes in the environment, Cairo, Egypt.


Acanthamoeba Genotypes Granulomatous amoebic encephalitis Egypt Environmental Physiological Biochemical Characterization Pathogenic 


Compliance with ethical standards

An informed consent was taken from patients after explaining the aim of the study to them. The study was started after being approved by the Ethical Committee of Scientific Research, Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gihan Mostafa Tawfeek
    • 1
  • Sawsan Abdel-Hamid Bishara
    • 1
  • Rania Mohammad Sarhan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eman ElShabrawi Taher
    • 2
  • Amira ElSaady Khayyal
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of MedicineAin Shams UniversityCairoEgypt
  2. 2.Research Institute of OphthalmologyGizaEgypt

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