You might recognise this famous protozoan - an ameba - from biology textbooks. Although it looks fair and harmless, don't get fooled: it can be really dangerous. More precisely, Entamoeba histolytica species cause a disease called amebiasis.
When E. histolytica cyst enters the human body through contaminated water, food or hands it turns into a trophozoite - metabolically active form.
E. histolytica appears in two forms
Cysts have no invasive tendencies. However, when passed in the feces to the environment, they can infect others. We are targeting this form along with non-invasive trophozoites with probiotics.
Trophozoites multiply in the intestinal lumen and produce cysts. They invade intestinal mucosa and cause systemic infection in some cases. We are targeting trophozoites with a diagnostic tool.
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About 80 - 90 % of the infected face no symptoms but can transmit the disease to other people, who might be more susceptible and face intricate complications. Unfortunately, current infection prevention is unspecific, based on good sanitation, avoidance of contaminated food and hands. These reasons justify the demand for prevention tools.
Currently, methods designed to diagnose amebiasis are ineffective or unavailable in the regions where this infection is widespread. Localization of the infection in the organism is essential to find a proper treatment strategy.
As a tool to prevent amebiasis, our team created the basis for probiotics capable of naringenin biosynthesis. Naringenin is a flavanone naturally present in plants. Experimental data showed it reduced Entamoeba histolytica virulence. Our probiotics could be consumed by locals that are carriers of the infection and travelers to prevent the spread of the disease to other countries.
This year we created the basis for a rapid, low-cost, user-friendly, specific diagnostic test for diagnosing invasive amebiasis from blood serum. Our test is based on the interaction between aptamers and specific proteins secreted by E. histolytica, resulting in a color change reaction. The test could be valuable not only for healthcare institutions but for in-home use as well.