Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Parasites Week Adiós Amoeba?
26 June 2014

Adiós Amoeba?

Fatal if untreated, amoebiasis is an infection of the intestines accompanied by stomach pain, bloody faeces and diarrhoea. The culprit is the parasitic amoeba Entamoeba histolytica, a single-celled organism that can survive in faeces-infected soil and water. Amoebae can live on the surface of the gut asymptomatically; however, during amoebiasis, they infect the cells in the wall of the large intestine and colon. During infection, E. histolytica devours pieces of its host cells, nibbling away fragments of the cell until it dies in a process called trogocytosis. Pictured is the gradual ingestion of a red blood cell by amoebic trogocytosis, starting with the cell membrane (stained purple). Cells die when the integrity of their plasma membrane is lost, nuclear DNA is degraded and mitochondria stop working. Revealing the host-pathogen interactions during trogocytosis, this red blood cell model could help identify new targets for the treatment of amoebiasis.

Written by Katie Panteli

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