Higher amoebic and metronidazole resistant forms of Blastocystis sp. seen in schizophrenic patients

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Background: Blastocystis sp. is one of the most common colonisers of the intestinal tract that demonstrate strong interaction with accompanying gut bacteria. Previously, the protozoan isolated from individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) showed altered phenotypic features suggesting that it can be triggered to become pathogenic. Previous studies reported altered gut microbiota and high prevalence of Blastocystis sp. in schizophrenia patients. However, the phenotypic characteristics of Blastocystis sp. isolated from individuals with SZ have yet to be described. Methods: In this study, faecal samples from 50 patients with severe schizophrenia (SZ) and 100 non-schizophrenic (NS) individuals were screened for Blastocystis sp. infection. Positive isolates were subjected to genotypic and phenotypic characterization. Results: We found that 12 out of 50 (24%) SZ and 5 out of 100 (5%) NS individuals were detected Blastocystis sp. positive using both in vitro culture and PCR method with no significant association to age and gender. Out of the 15 sequenced isolates, ST3 was the most prevalent subtype (66.7%) followed by ST1 (20%) and ST6 (13.3%). The isolates from SZ individuals demonstrated significant slower growth rate (34.9 ± 15.6 h) and larger range of cell diameter (3.3–140 µm). We detected higher amoebic forms and metronidazole resistance among SZ isolates with variation in cell surface glycoprotein where 98% of cells from SZ showed consistent medium to high binding affinity (+ 2 to + 3) to Concavalin A staining compared to NS isolates that demonstrated only 76% high lectin (+ 3) binding affinity. Cysteine and serine protease levels were predominantly found among SZ isolates. We also demonstrate the presence of metalloprotease in Blastocystis sp. especially among NS isolates. Introduction of solubilised antigens from SZ isolates increased the cell proliferation of HCT116 cells by two fold when compared to NS isolates. Conclusion: Our findings demonstrated Blastocystis sp. isolated from SZ individuals showed variation in phenotype specifically in morphology and drug resistance. The findings indicate that the gut environment (SZ and NS) and treatment of SZ could have influenced the phenotype of Blastocystis sp. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]




Franklin, F., Rajamanikam, A., Raju, C. S., Gill, J. S., Francis, B., Sy-Cherng, L. W., & Kumar, S. (2022). Higher amoebic and metronidazole resistant forms of Blastocystis sp. seen in schizophrenic patients. Parasites and Vectors, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-022-05418-0

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