Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220


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Published online September 1, 2023

Journal of Ecology and Environment (2023) 47:11

Characterizations of four freshwater amoebae including opportunistic pathogens newly recorded in the Republic of Korea

Hyeon Been Lee and Jong Soo Park*

Department of Oceanography, Kyungpook National University, Daegu 41566, Republic of Korea

Correspondence to:Jong Soo Park

Received: May 22, 2023; Revised: July 28, 2023; Accepted: August 7, 2023

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background: Free-living amoebae (FLA) are widely distributed in freshwater, seawater, soil, and extreme environments, and play a critical role as feeders on diverse preys in the ecosystem. Also, some FLA can become opportunistic pathogens in animals including humans. The taxa Amoebozoa and Heterolobosea are important amoeboid groups associated with human pathogens. However, the identification and habitat of amoebae belonging to Amoebozoa and Heterolobosea remain poorly reported in the Republic of Korea. This study highlights the first record for identification and source of four amoebae including putative pathogens in the Republic of Korea.
Results: In the present study, four previously reported FLA were isolated from freshwaters in Sangju Gonggeomji Reservoir (strain GO001), one of the largest reservoirs during the Joseon Dynasty period, and along the Nakdong River, the largest river in the Republic of Korea (strains NR5-2, NR12-1, and NR14-1) for the first time. Microscopic observations and 18S rDNA phylogenetic trees revealed the four isolated strains to be Acanthamoeba polyphaga (strains NR5-2 and NR12-1), Tetramitus waccamawensis (strain GO001), and Naegleria australiensis (strain NR14-1). Strains NR5-2 and NR12-1 might be the same species and belonged to the morphological Group 2 and the T4 genotype of Acanthamoeba. Strain GO001 formed a clade with T. waccamawensis in 18S rDNA phylogeny, and showed morphological characteristics similar to previously recorded strains, although the species’ flagellate form was not observed. Strain NR14-1 had the typical morphology of Naegleria and formed a strongly supported clade with previously recorded strains of N. australiensis in phylogenetic analysis of 18S rDNA sequences.
Conclusions: On the bases of morphological and molecular analyses, four strains of FLA were newly observed and classified in the Republic of Korea. Three strains belonging to the two species (A. polyphaga and N. australiensis) isolated from the Nakdong River have the potential to act as opportunistic pathogens that can cause fatal diseases (i.e. granulomatous amoebic encephalitis, Acanthamoeba Keratitis, and meningoencephalitis) in animals including humans. The Nakdong River in the Republic of Korea may provide a habitat for potentially pathogenic amoebae, but additional research is required to confirm the true pathogenicity of these FLA now known in the Republic of Korea.

Keywords: Acanthamoeba, amoeba, classification, habitat, Naegleria, Nakdong River

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Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220