Entamoeba invadens is a protozoal parasite of reptiles that causes colitis, abscesses of liver and other organs, and sometimes acute death. It is generally considered a commensal of chelonians but has also been implicated as a cause of colitis, diarrhea, and death in gopher (Gopherus polyphemus) and leopard (Geochelone pardalis) tortoises. Diagnosis of E. invadens is currently by detection of trophozoites and/or cysts upon direct fecal examination. However, definitive diagnosis of E. invadens has been difficult due to the very similar morphology of nonpathogenic Entamoeba spp., including E. ranarum, E. insolita, E. barreti, and E. terrapinae. Definitive speciation of Entamoeba spp. is important to avoid misdiagnosis or overtreatment for nonpathogenic protozoa. It is also important for consideration of mixed species reptile collections to avoid exposing snakes and lizards to E. invadens. In this study, we developed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers for E. invadens, E. ranarum, E. terrapinae, and E. insolita and conducted PCR amplification of purified DNA from cell cultures, as well as purified DNA from reptile stool samples with E. invadens trophozoites added. As a result of this study, a naturally occurring infection of E. invadens was confirmed in a giant South American river turtle (Podocnemis expansa). This study has developed successful PCR primers for four species of Entamoeba and demonstrates that PCR is a promising diagnostic tool for the definitive identification of E. invadens.
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Vol. 39 • No. 2