Occurrence of free-living amoebae in communities of low and high endemicity for buruli ulcer in southern benin

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Buruli ulcer or Mycobacterium ulcerans disease occurs mainly in areas in proximity to standing or slowly running freshwater, habitats in which free-living amoebae occur. For this reason, a possible link between the habitat of M. ulcerans and free-living amoebae was investigated. Free-living amoebae and mycobacteria were isolated from water and biofilm specimens taken from protected and unprotected sources of water in villages known to have either high or low endemicity for Buruli ulcer in Benin. Amoebae were isolated from 78.8% of samples. A greater proportion of water bodies in areas of high endemicity had amoebae than in areas of low endemicity (83.3% versus 66.7%). Protected sources of water were significantly more likely to contain amoebae in areas of high endemicity than in areas of low endemicity (88.0% versus 11.1%). Several pathogenic free-living amoebae and mycobacteria were isolated. However, no M. ulcerans was isolated and no specimen was positive for IS2404 PCR. Our results show that the study area has a water hygiene problem, which is greater in areas of high Buruli ulcer endemicity than in areas of low endemicity. Our observations indicate that additional studies are required to explore the possible link between free-living amoebae and mycobacteria.

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