Parasitology Research

, Volume 118, Issue 10, pp 3061–3066 | Cite as

Isolation, identification, and phylogenetic analysis of potentially pathogenic free-living amoebae isolated from nasal and oral mucosa of HIV/AIDS patients in Iran

  • Zahra Arab-Mazar
  • Maryam NiyyatiEmail author
  • Zohreh Lasjerdi
  • Adel Spotin
  • Ilad Alavi Darzam
  • Latif Gachkar
Protozoology - Original Paper


The burden of HIV/AIDS in Iran is not as high as in the other countries with high prevalence; however, the number of cases of HIV/AIDs is increasing in this region. According to a recent report, Iran had 5000 (1400–13,000) new cases of HIV infection with 4000 (2500–6200) AIDS-related deaths. Individuals affected by HIV/AIDS are highly susceptible for developing opportunistic infections, e.g. the cerebral complications related to pathogenic free-living amoebae and colonization of free-living amoebae (FLA) can be a serious hazard for patients living with HIV/AIDS. In the present study, a total of 70 oral and nasal mucosal samples were obtained from HIV/AIDS patients referred to the reference hospitals in Iran and tested for the presence of potentially pathogenic FLA using culture and PCR/sequencing-based methods. To discern the taxonomic status of Acanthamoeba genotypes a maximum likelihood phylogenetic tree was constructed and tolerance assays were performed for the positive Acanthamoeba strains. Among the patients with HIV/AIDS referred to the reference hospitals from 2017 to 2019, 7.1% were found positive for pathogenic free-living amoebae. Three strains (HA3, HA4, and HA5) belonged to the T4 genotype, one strain (HA1) was related to the T5 genotype assigned as A. lenticulata, and another strain (HA2) had high homology to Vermamoeba vermiformis. The tolerance assay used for Acanthamoeba strains (HA1, HA3, and HA4) classified these amoebae as highly pathogenic strains. For the most part, the encephalitis cases occurring in HIV/AIDS patients in Iran remain undiagnosed due to lack of awareness of the practitioners on the available diagnostic tools for this lethal infection; therefore, the true incidence of GAE in this region is unknown. A possible colonization with FLA should be considered in the differential diagnosis of suspected cases of CNS infections among HIV/AIDS patients. This study is the first worldwide comprehensive study attempting to isolate and identify the FLA colonization in HIV/AIDS patients. This study highlights the fact that clinicians should be aware of the differential diagnosis of cerebral disease related to FLA in patients with HIV/AIDS.


HIV/AIDS patients Free-living amoebae Iran 



Thanks are due to Shahid Beheshti University educational hospitals for their kind assistance.

Funding information

This study was funded by the Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran (grant number: 12278).

Compliance with ethical standards

The Ethics Committee of Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Iran approved this study (ethics committee code: 1396.1122).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical Parasitology and Mycology, School of Public HealthTehran University of Medical SciencesTehranIran
  2. 2.Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Research CenterShahid Beheshti University of Medical SciencesTehranIran
  3. 3.Department of Medical Parasitology and Mycology, School of MedicineShahid Beheshti University of Medical SciencesTehranIran
  4. 4.Immunology Research CenterTabriz University of Medical SciencesTabrizIran
  5. 5.Clinical Research Development Center, Loghman Hakim HospitalShahid Beheshti University of Medical SciencesTehranIran

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