Commensals Serve as Natural Barriers to Mammalian Cells during Acanthamoeba castellanii Invasion

Yu Jen Wang, Chun Hsien Chen, Jenn Wei Chen, Wei Chen Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Acanthamoeba castellanii is a free-living, pathogenic ameba found in the soil and water. It invades the body through ulcerated skin, the nasal passages, and eyes and can cause blinding keratitis and granulomatous encephalitis. However, the mechanisms underlying the opportunistic pathogenesis of A. castellanii remain unclear. In this study, we observed that commensal bacteria significantly reduced the cytotoxicity of the ameba on mammalian cells. This effect occurred in the presence of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative commensals. Additionally, commensals mitigated the disruption of cell junctions. Ex vivo experiments on mouse eyeballs further showed that the commensals protected the corneal epithelial layer. Together, these findings indicate that A. castellanii is pathogenic to individuals with a dysbiosis of the microbiota at infection sites, further highlighting the role of commensals as a natural barrier during parasite invasion. IMPORTANCE Acanthamoeba castellanii, an opportunistic protozoan widely present in the environment, can cause Acanthamoeba keratitis and encephalitis in humans. However, only a few reports describe how the ameba acts as an opportunistic pathogen. Our study showed that the normal microbiota interfered with the cytotoxicity of Acanthamoeba, persevered during Acanthamoeba invasion, and reduced corneal epithelium peeling in the mouse eyeball model. This suggests that commensals may act as a natural barrier against Acanthamoeba invasion. In future, individuals who suffer from Acanthamoeba keratitis should be examined for microbiota absence or dysbiosis to reduce the incidence of Acanthamoeba infection in clinical settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00512-21
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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