Isolation and genotyping of Acanthamoeba strains from corneal infections in Italy

Simonetta Gatti, Paolo Rama, Stanislav Matuska, Federica Berrilli, Annalisa Cavallero, Silvia Carletti, Antonella Bruno, Roberta Maserati, David Di Cave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is a corneal disease caused by members of a genus of free-living amoebae and is associated predominantly with contact lens (CL) use. This study reports 16 cases of culture-proven AK diagnosed in northern Italy. Genotype identification was carried out with a PCR assay based on sequence analysis of the 18S rRNA gene, and sensitivity and specificity were evaluated in comparison with traditional parasitological techniques. A 405 bp region of the 18S rRNA gene (ASA.S1) including diagnostic fragment 3 (DF3) was amplified using the genus-specific primers JDP1 and JDP2. Genotype assignment was based on phenetic analysis of the ASA.S1 subset of the nuclear small-subunit rRNA gene sequence excluding the highly variable DF3 region. Phylogenetic analysis was also performed on the sequences obtained. All patients complained of monolateral infection; 11 (68.75%) admitted improper CL disinfection. In 14/16 (87.5 %) subjects, corneal scrapings were stained with calcofluor white and haematoxylin and eosin and, in ten cases (62.5 %), microscopy was positive for Acanthamoeba cysts. In vitro culture on 3% non-nutrient agar plates was obtained in all cases (100 %), whereas cloning and axenic growth were positive for 14 amoebic stocks (87.5 %). PCR analysis had 100% sensitivity and specificity compared with in vitro axenic culture, showing positive amplification from 15 isolates. All Acanthamoeba strains belonged to the T4 genotype, the main AK-related genotype worldwide. These results confirmed the importance of a complete diagnostic protocol, including a PCR assay, for the clinical diagnosis of AK on biological samples. Genotyping allowed inclusion of all isolates in the T4 group, thus demonstrating the prevalence of this genotype in northern Italy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1324-1330
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology


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