Abstract

This study aimed to identify the Acanthamoeba genotypes and their pathogenic potential in five recreational hot springs in Peninsular Malaysia. Fifty water samples were collected between April and September 2018. Physical parameters of water quality were measured in situ while chemical and microbiological analyses were performed in the laboratory. All samples were filtered through the nitrocellulose membrane and tested for Acanthamoeba using both cultivation and polymerase chain reaction by targeting the 18S ribosomal RNA gene. The pathogenic potential of all positive isolates was identified using thermo- and osmotolerance tests. Thirty-eight (76.0%) samples were positive for Acanthamoeba. Water temperature (P = 0.035), chemical oxygen demand (P = 0.026), sulphate (P = 0.002) and Escherichia coli (P < 0.001) were found to be significantly correlated with the presence of Acanthamoeba. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that 24 samples belonged to genotype T4, nine (T15), two (T3) and one from each genotype T5, T11 and T17. Thermo- and osmotolerance tests showed that 6 (15.79%) of the Acanthamoeba strains were highly pathogenic. The existence of Acanthamoeba in recreational hot springs should be considered as a health threat among the public especially for high-risk people. Periodic surveillance of hot spring waters and posting warning signs by health authorities is recommended to prevent disease related to pathogenic Acanthamoeba.

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