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Surveillance of Vittaforma corneae in hot springs by a small-volume procedure.

Surveillance of Vittaforma corneae in hot springs by a small-volume procedure.
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Chen JS, Hsu TK, Hsu BM, Huang TY, Huang YL, Shaio MF, Ji DD,


Chen JS, Hsu TK, Hsu BM, Huang TY, Huang YL, Shaio MF, Ji DD, (click to view)

Chen JS, Hsu TK, Hsu BM, Huang TY, Huang YL, Shaio MF, Ji DD,

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Water research 2017 04 19118() 208-216 pii S0043-1354(17)30292-0
Abstract

Vittaforma corneae is an obligate intracellular fungus and can cause human ocular microsporidiosis. Although accumulating reports of V. corneae causing keratoconjunctivitis in both healthy and immunocompromised persons have been published, little is known about the organism’s occurrence in aquatic environments. Limitations in detection sensitivity have meant a large sampling volume is required to detect the pathogen up to now, which is problematic. A recent study in Taiwan has shown that some individuals suffering from microsporidial keratitis (MK) were infected after exposure to the pathogen at a hot spring. As a consequence of this, a survey and analysis of environmental V. corneae present in hot springs became an urgent need. In this study, sixty water samples from six hot spring recreation areas around Taiwan were analyzed. One liter of water from each sample site was filtered to harvest the fungi. The positive samples were detected using a modified nested PCR approach followed by sequencing using specific SSU rRNA gene primer pairs for V. corneae. In total fifteen V. corneae-like isolates were identified (25.0% of sites). Among them, six isolates, which were collected from recreational areas B, C and D, were highly similar to known V. corneae keratitis strains from Taiwan and other countries. Furthermore, five isolates, which were collected from recreation areas A, C, E and F, were very similar to Vittaforma-like diarrhea strains isolated in Portugal. Cold spring water tubs and public foot bath pools had the highest detection rate (50%), suggesting that hot springs might be contaminated via untreated water sources. Comparing the detection rate across different regions of Taiwan, Taitung, which is in the east of the island, gave the highest positive rate (37.5%). Statistical analysis showed that outdoor/soil exposure and a high heterotrophic plate count (HPC) were risk factors for the occurrence of V. corneae. Our findings provide empirical evidence supporting the need for proper control and regulations at hot spring recreational waters in order to avoid health risks from this pathogen. Finally, we have developed a small volume procedure for detecting V. corneae in water samples and this has proved to be very useful.

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