The term amoebae refers to protozoan organisms that are able to change their shape and feed by phagocytosis. Two entirely unrelated eukaryotic groups include amoeboid organisms of medical relevance, namely, the Amoebozoa and the Excavata. Most amoebae have a cosmopolitan distribution, and only few species are strict parasites. Among these are the intestinal entamoebae that cannot propagate without a host (= obligatory parasites) and survive in the environment only as cysts. However, most amoebae do not need a host and are, thus, irrespective of their phylogenetic affiliations, all subsumed under the term free-living amoebae. Nevertheless, when they accidentally enter a host, some of these may also cause severe disease. The most common amoebic infections in animals are the intestinal infections by enteric amoebae, of which infections with E. histolytica in primates and with E. invadens in reptiles are of highest medical relevance. Furthermore, the amoebic gill disease (AGD)—mainly caused by Neoparamoeba perurans—has become a significant problem in fish farms in the past few years. Infections with Acanthamoeba spp., Balamuthia mandrillaris, and Naegleria fowleri, are very rare and are always accidental. Generally, amoebic infections in animals can show severe and fatal progressions, mainly due to low awareness leading to delayed diagnosis and to the unavailability of sufficiently effective treatment. This chapter intends to give an overview of the amoeboid organisms known to infect animals and the corresponding diseases.


Amoebae Entamoebae Entamoeba histolytica Intestinal amoebiasis Acanthamoeba keratitis Neoparamoeba perurans AGD Acanthamoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris GAE Naegleria fowleri PAME Reptile amoebiasis 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and ImmunologyMedical University of ViennaViennaAustria

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