Free-living amoebae and their intracellular pathogenic microorganisms: risks for water quality

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2010 May;34(3):231-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2009.00190.x. Epub 2009 Aug 12.


An increasing number of microorganisms, including bacteria but also viruses and eukaryotes, have been described as benefiting from interaction with free-living amoebae (FLA). Beneficial interaction can be due to resistance to predation conferring ecological advantage, intracellular survival and/or intracellular proliferation. This review highlights the potential risk associated with amoebae by listing all known pathogenic microbial species for which growth and/or survival promotion by FLA (mainly Acanthamoeba spp.) has been demonstrated. It focuses on the susceptibility of amoebal and intra-amoebal bacteria to various categories of biocides, the known mechanisms of action of these biocides against trophozoites and cysts and the various methods used to demonstrate efficacy of treatments against FLA. Brief descriptions of FLA ecology and prevalence in domestic/institutional water systems and their intrinsic pathogenicity are also presented. The intention is to provide an informed opinion on the environmental risks associated with the presence of FLA and on the survival of cysts following biocidal treatments, while also highlighting the need to conduct research on the roles of amoebae in aquatic ecosystems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba / drug effects
  • Acanthamoeba / microbiology*
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology
  • Symbiosis*
  • Water / parasitology*


  • Antiprotozoal Agents
  • Disinfectants
  • Water