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Isolation and molecular characterization of Acanthamoeba and Balamuthia mandrillaris from combination shower units in Costa Rica


Free living amoebae (FLA) are ubiquitous protozoa, which may behave as parasites under certain conditions. Four genera are recognized as causal agents of infections in humans and animals: Naegleria, Sappinia, Acanthamoeba and Balamuthia. This work determines the presence of FLA in combination shower units and employs molecular biology for the characterization of isolates. The morphological analysis and partial sequencing of the 18S rDNA gene revealed the presence of Acanthamoeba genotype T4 in 30 % of the units sampled. In addition to Acanthamoeba cysts, trophozoites with morphological characteristics similar to Balamuthia were identified. PCR assay using the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene as a target confirmed the identification of the amoeba as Balamuthia mandrillaris. Up to date, this is the first report of the isolation of B. mandrillaris in Central America and the fifth report worldwide.

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This study was supported by project 803-B4-050, Vicerrectoría de Investigación, University of Costa Rica. This work was supported by the grants RICET (project no. RD12/0018/0012of the programme of Redes Temáticas de Investigación Cooperativa, FIS), Spanish Ministry of Health, Madrid, Spain and the Project FIS PI10/01298 “Protozoosis emergentes por amebas de vida libre: aislamiento y caracterización molecular, identificación de cepas transportadoras de otros agentes patógenos y búsqueda de quimioterapias efectivas”, PI13/00490 “Protozoosis Emergentes por Amebas de Vida Libre: Aislamiento, Caracterización, Nuevas Aproximaciones Terapéuticas y Traslación Clínica de los Resultados” from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III and Project ref. AGUA3 “Amebas de Vida Libre como Marcadores de Calidad del Agua” from CajaCanarias Fundación. MRB was funded by CEI Canarias, Campus Atlántico Internacional and Becas Fundación Cajacanarias para Postgraduados 2014. JLM was supported by the Ramón y Cajal Subprogramme from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competivity RYC-2011-08863.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Abrahams-Sandí.

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Retana-Moreira, L., Abrahams-Sandí, E., Cabello-Vílchez, A.M. et al. Isolation and molecular characterization of Acanthamoeba and Balamuthia mandrillaris from combination shower units in Costa Rica. Parasitol Res 113, 4117–4122 (2014).

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  • Free-living amoebae
  • Acanthamoeba
  • Balamuthia mandrillaris
  • Costa Rica