Balamuthia mandrillaris: In Vitro Interactions with Selected Protozoa and Algae



J.L. Tapia, Department of Parasitology, Instituto de Diagnóstico y Referencia Epidemiológicos, Prolongación Carpio 470, Col. Santo Tomas, Delegación Miguel Hidalgo, 11340 CP, México D.F.

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Although Balamuthia mandrillaris was identified more than two decades ago as an agent of fatal granulomatous encephalitis in humans and other animals, little is known about its ecological niche, biological behavior in the environment, food preferences and predators, if any. When infecting humans or other animals, Balamuthia feeds on tissues; and in vitro culture, it feeds on mammalian cells (monkey kidney cells, human lung fibroblasts, and human microvascular endothelial cells). According to recent reports, it is believed that Balamuthia feeds on small amebae, for example, Acanthamoeba that are present in its ecological niche. To test this hypothesis, we associated Balamuthia on a one-on-one basis with selected protozoa and algae. We videotaped the behavior of Balamuthia in the presence of a potential prey, its ability to hunt and attack its food, and the time required to eat and cause damage to the target cell by direct contact. We found that B. mandrillaris ingested trophozoites of Naegleria fowleri, Naegleria gruberi, Acanthamoeba spp., Trypanosoma cruzi epimastigotes, Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites, and Giardia. However, it did not feed on Acanthamoeba cysts or algae. Balamuthia caused cytolysis of T. cruzi epimastigotes and T. gondii tachyzoites by direct contact. Balamuthia trophozoites and cysts were, however, eaten by Paramecium sp.