Survival and growth of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia in free-living amoebae (FLA) and bacterial virulence properties

PLoS One. 2018 Feb 5;13(2):e0192308. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192308. eCollection 2018.


Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is found ubiquitously in the environment and is an important emerging nosocomial pathogen. S. maltophilia has been recently described as an Amoebae-Resistant Bacteria (ARB) that exists as part of the microbiome of various free-living amoebae (FLA) from waters. Co-culture approaches with Vermamoeba vermiformis demonstrated the ability of this bacterium to resist amoebal digestion. In the present study, we assessed the survival and growth of six environmental and one clinical S. maltophilia strains within two amoebal species: Acanthamoeba castellanii and Willaertia magna. We also evaluated bacterial virulence properties using the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. A co-culture approach was carried out over 96 hours and the abundance of S. maltophilia cells was measured using quantitative PCR and culture approach. The presence of bacteria inside the amoeba was confirmed using confocal microscopy. Our results showed that some S. maltophilia strains were able to multiply within both amoebae and exhibited multiplication rates up to 17.5 and 1166 for A. castellanii and W. magna, respectively. In contrast, some strains were unable to multiply in either amoeba. Out of the six environmental S. maltophilia strains tested, one was found to be virulent. Surprisingly, this strain previously isolated from a soil amoeba, Micriamoeba, was unable to infect both amoebal species tested. We further performed an assay with a mutant strain of S. maltophilia BurA1 lacking the efflux pump ebyCAB gene and found the mutant to be more virulent and more efficient for intra-amoebal multiplication. Overall, the results obtained strongly indicated that free-living amoebae could be an important ecological niche for S. maltophilia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amoeba / microbiology*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stenotrophomonas maltophilia / growth & development*
  • Stenotrophomonas maltophilia / pathogenicity
  • Virulence

Grant support

The work was supported by “Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique “ in order to perform experiments, and by a research program of the FR BioEnviS. E. Denet, phD Student was supported by the “Ministère de l’Education Nationale, de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche.