Characterization of Encephalitozoon (Septata) intestinalis isolates cultured from nasal mucosa and bronchoalveolar lavage fluids of two AIDS patients

J Eukaryot Microbiol. Jan-Feb 1996;43(1):34-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1550-7408.1996.tb02470.x.


Microsporidia are obligate intracellular protozoan parasites that can cause opportunistic infections in AIDS patients. Species from five genera of microsporidia are presently known to infect man. One species, Septata intestinalis originally was detected in stool specimens of individuals with chronic diarrhea and subsequently was found to disseminate to the kidneys, lungs, and nasal sinuses. This organism has since been reclassified as Encephalitozoon and in this study, we report the culture of Encephalitozoon intestinalis from a bronchoalveolar lavage specimen and a nasal mucus aspirate of two AIDS patients living in the USA. The bronchoalveolar and nasal microsporidian isolates grew in several continuous cell lines including RK-13, MDCK, HT-29, Caco-2, Vero, and I047. Transmission electron microscopy of the clinical and cell culture specimens revealed that the new isolates appeared to be E. intestinalis based on morphology and growth of organisms in septated membrane-bound parasitophorous vacuoles. The new E. intestinalis isolates were characterized and compared with the first isolated E. intestinalis that was cultured from stool to confirm their identity and to determine if there existed any minor differences, as seen in the closely related Encephalitozoon cuniculi strains. By the methods of sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis staining for proteins and carbohydrates, Western blot immunodetection, and polymerase chain reaction-based methods with restriction endonuclease digestion, double-stranded DNA heteroduplex mobility shift analysis, and DNA sequencing of the ribosomal DNA intergenic spacer region, the new isolates were identical to each other and to the reference isolate of E. intestinalis. In addition, with any of these methods, the E. intestinalis organisms could be distinguished from the three E. cuniculi strains, Encephalitozoon hellem, and Vittaforma corneae, which is important for diagnostics, therapeutic strategies, and epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / parasitology*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / parasitology*
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / parasitology*
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Encephalitozoon / genetics
  • Encephalitozoon / immunology
  • Encephalitozoon / isolation & purification*
  • Encephalitozoon / ultrastructure
  • Encephalitozoonosis / complications
  • Glycoproteins / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nasal Mucosa / parasitology*
  • Protozoan Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Glycoproteins
  • Protozoan Proteins