Assessment of genotypes, endosymbionts and clinical characteristics of Acanthamoeba recovered from ocular infection

Binod Rayamajhee, Savitri Sharma, Mark Willcox, Fiona L. Henriquez, Raksheeth Nathan Rajagopal, Gauri Shankar Shrestha, Dinesh Subedi, Bhupesh Bagga, Nicole Carnt

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Introduction: Acanthamoeba is an emerging pathogen, infamous for its resilience against antiprotozoal compounds, disinfectants and harsh environments. It is known to cause keratitis, a sight-threatening, painful and difficult to treat corneal infection which is often reported among contact lens wearers and patients with ocular trauma. Acanthamoeba comprises over 24 species and currently 23 genotypes (T1-T23) have been identified. 

Aims: This retrospective study was designed to examine the Acanthamoeba species and genotypes recovered from patients with Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), determine the presence of endosymbionts in ocular isolates of Acanthamoeba and review the clinical presentations. 

Methodology: Thirteen culture-confirmed AK patients treated in a tertiary eye care facility in Hyderabad, India from February to October 2020 were included in this study. The clinical manifestations, medications and visual outcomes of all patients were obtained from medical records. The Acanthamoeba isolates were identified by sequencing the ribosomal nuclear subunit (rns) gene. Acanthamoeba isolates were assessed for the presence of bacterial or fungal endosymbionts using molecular assays, PCR and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). 

Results: The mean age of the patients was 33 years (SD ± 17.4; 95% CI 22.5 to 43.5 years). Six (46.2%) cases had AK associated risk factors; four patients had ocular trauma and two were contact lens wearers. A. culbertsoni (6/13, 46.2%) was the most common species, followed by A. polyphaga and A. triangularis. Most of the isolates (12/13) belonged to genotype T4 and one was a T12; three sub-clusters T4A, T4B, and T4F were identified within the T4 genotype. There was no significant association between Acanthamoeba types and clinical outcomes. Eight (61.5%) isolates harboured intracellular bacteria and one contained Malassezia restricta. The presence of intracellular microbes was associated with a higher proportion of stromal infiltrates (88.9%, 8/9), epithelial defect (55.6%, 5/9) and hypopyon (55.6%, 5/9) compared to 50% (2/4), 25% (1/4) and 25% (1/4) AK cases without intracellular microbes, respectively. 

Conclusions: Genotype T4 was the predominant isolate in southern India. This is the second report of T12 genotype identified from AK patient in India, which is rarely reported worldwide. The majority of the Acanthamoeba clinical isolates in this study harboured intracellular microbes, which may impact clinical characteristics of AK.

Original languageEnglish
Article number757
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Acanthamoeba
  • Endosymbionts
  • Genotyping
  • Keratitis

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