Microsporidia are obligate intracellular pathogens of invertebrate and vertebrate animals. Most human infections are caused by Enterocytozoon bieneusi or Encephalitozoon intestinalis, and result in chronic diarrhea. In order to determine the signals involved in microsporidial spore activation and invasion, kinetics of in vitro E. intestinalis replication were defined using real-time quantitative PCR. Segments of small subunit ribosomal RNA and polar tube protein 2 genes of E. intestinalis were used to quantify parasite gene copy number following infection in murine colon carcinoma cells. Parasite DNA was detectable in small but significant amounts within host cells as early as 4 h postinoculation, genome replication was completed by 36 h, and parasite progeny were released into the supernatant beginning 72 h postinoculation. Heat-treating spores did not prevent transfer of parasite DNA into cells, but did inhibit parasite replication. Treating cell cultures with albendazole suppressed but did not completely inhibit parasite replication. These results confirm observations that E. intestinalis completes its life cycle within the turnover time of its target host cells; invasion into susceptible host cells occurs independently of spore viability; and real-time quantitative PCR is a sensitive and reproducible method with which to monitor microsporidial infection under varying treatments or conditions.
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Vol. 50 • No. 3