Abstract

The aim of this study was to determine the occurrence of free-living amoebae (FLA) in Peninsular Malaysia and to compare different methodologies to detect them from water samples. Water samples were collected from tap water, recreational places, water dispensers, filtered water, etc. and tested for FLA using both cultivation and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) via plating assays and centrifugation methods. Amoebae DNA was extracted using Instagene matrix and PCR was performed using genus-specific primers. Of 250 samples, 142 (56.8%) samples were positive for presence of amoebae, while 108 (43.2%) were negative. Recreational water showed higher prevalence of amoebae than tap water. PCR for the plating assays revealed the presence of Acanthamoeba in 91 (64%) samples and Naegleria in 99 (70%) of samples analysed. All samples tested were negative for B. mandrillaris. In contrast, the centrifugation method was less effective in detecting amoebae as only one sample revealed the presence of Acanthamoeba and 52 (29%) samples were positive for Naegleria. PCR assays were specific and sensitive, detecting as few as 10 cells. These findings show the vast distribution and presence of FLA in all 11 states of Peninsular Malaysia. Further studies could determine the possible presence of pathogenic species and strains of free-living amoebae in public water supplies in Malaysia.

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