Survival of environmental mycobacteria in Acanthamoeba polyphaga

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Sep;72(9):5974-81. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03075-05.


Free-living amoebae in water are hosts to many bacterial species living in such an environment. Such an association enables bacteria to select virulence factors and survive in adverse conditions. Waterborne mycobacteria (WBM) are important sources of community- and hospital-acquired outbreaks of nontuberculosis mycobacterial infections. However, the interactions between WBM and free-living amoebae in water have been demonstrated for only few Mycobacterium spp. We investigated the ability of a number (n = 26) of Mycobacterium spp. to survive in the trophozoites and cysts of Acanthamoeba polyphaga. All the species tested entered the trophozoites of A. polyphaga and survived at this location over a period of 5 days. Moreover, all Mycobacterium spp. survived inside cysts for a period of 15 days. Intracellular Mycobacterium spp. within amoeba cysts survived when exposed to free chlorine (15 mg/liter) for 24 h. These data document the interactions between free-living amoebae and the majority of waterborne Mycobacterium spp. Further studies are required to examine the effects of various germicidal agents on the survival of WBM in an aquatic environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba / microbiology*
  • Acanthamoeba / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Community-Acquired Infections / transmission
  • Cross Infection / transmission
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Disinfection
  • Ecosystem
  • Endoscopes / adverse effects
  • Endoscopes / microbiology
  • Endoscopes / parasitology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mycobacterium / classification
  • Mycobacterium / genetics
  • Mycobacterium / isolation & purification*
  • Mycobacterium / pathogenicity
  • Mycobacterium Infections / transmission
  • Species Specificity
  • Water / parasitology
  • Water Microbiology


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Water