The purpose was to identify the prevalence of naked amoebae in tap water in south Florida to ascertain the risk of amoebal infections of the cornea in contact lens wearers.

Over the course of a 2-year period, water samples were collected from sites throughout Broward, Palm Beach, and Dade counties, Florida. The presence of amoebae in samples was based on an enrichment cultivation method appropriate for Acanthamoeba. Amoebae were identified using diagnostic features discernable by light microscopy.

A total of 283 water samples were processed and amoebae were noted in 80 of these. Acanthamoeba were found on 8 occasions (2.8%). The genera Hartmannella and Vahlkampfia, rarely involved in keratitis cases, were found in 3.5% and 2.8% of samples, respectively. A total of 19 different naked amoebae were recorded and amoebae (regardless of genus) were present in 19.4% of all samples.

Previous surveys in England and Korea have shown that acanthamoebae are found in 15 to 30% of tap water samples in the home and have been associated with corneal infection in contact lens wearers. The incidence of acanthamoebae infection in the USA (2.8%) has been found to be lower than that in the UK and it has been postulated that this is related to the lack of a storage water tank in the roof loft space. However, the level of treatment of municipal water is clearly not effective at killing amoebal cysts (or trophozoites) as evidenced by the high occurrence of amoebae (19.4%) in this study.

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