Microsporidia are obligate intracellular, eukaryotic parasites that are known to infect a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate species and have been reported to include a broad range of host specificities for various cell types. Although it is clear that some species of microsporidia have the ability to disseminate, causing multiorgan infections, it is not understood how dissemination occurs. One hypothesis suggests that mononuclear phagocytes engulf the pathogen and migrate to various organs while the parasite persists and proliferates. This implies that microsporidia have developed methods by which to escape intracellular degradation and can, instead, use the host as a source of nourishment and a vehicle for dissemination. In our study, we investigated the infection kinetics of 2 Encephalitozoon spp. known to cause disseminated disease in humans. Using fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy, it was determined that spore adherence to the host was rapid (3–6 hr), as was the uptake and organization of internal parasitophorous vacuoles (24 hr). Furthermore, replication was shown to occur within macrophages at 72 hr, as measured by the bromodeoxyuridine proliferation assay, and the production of mature spores occurred in host cells at 120 hr. Parasitic replication could be reduced by pretreatment of macrophages with interferon-gamma and bacterial lipopolysaccharide.
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