Free-living amoebae (FLA) are parasites within both humans and animals causing a wide range of symptoms and act as hosts of, and vehicles for phylogenetically diverse microorganisms, called endocytobionts. The interaction of the FLA with sympatric microorganisms leads to an exceptional diversity within FLA. Some of these bacteria, viruses, and even eukaryotes, can live and replicate intracellularly within the FLA. This relationship provides protection to the microorganisms from external interventions and a dispersal mechanism across various habitats. Among those intracellularly-replicating or -residing organisms there are obligate and facultative pathogenic microorganisms affecting the health of humans or animals and are therefore of interest to Public Health Authorities. Mimiviruses, Pandoraviruses, and Pithoviruses are examples for interesting viral endocytobionts within FLA. Future research is expected to reveal further endocytobionts within free-living amoebae and other protozoa through co-cultivation studies, genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analyses.
Keywords: Acanthamoeba; FLA; Mimivirus; Pandoravirus; Pithovirus; endocytobionts; endosymbionts; free-living amoebae; hosts; public health; vectors.