Researchers at OSU have been involved in the study of the free-living amoebae in the genus Acanthamoeba, and related groups (Balamuthia, Protacanthamoeba and Vermamoeba/Hartmanella) for more than 40 years.
Research on Acanthamoeba was begun under Tom Byers, first in the Department of Zoology, and subsequently in the Department of Microbiology and then the Department of Molecular Genetics. Tom recruited Paul Fuerst as a collaborator soon after Paul arrived at Ohio State. Greg Booton joined the group, first as a graduate student, and subsequently as a post-doc and ultimately Assistant Professor. After Tom’s retirement the center of work came full circle, as Paul Fuerst continued within the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology (a unit that evolved from the Department of Zoology). Following Tom’s death in 2003, Paul Fuerst and Greg Booton maintained the research program initiated by Tom Byers, and it continues to the present.
The OSU Acanthamoeba program was responsible for the development of the genotype classification system (beginning with seminal papers in 1996 and 1998) that has been adopted by most researchers in Acanthamoeba. Based on DNA sequences of the small-subunit ribosomal RNA gene (18S rRNA), the typing system has seen the identification of at least twenty sequence types (T1-T20) and their analysis. The investigation of the relationship between species name of Acanthamoeba isolates and sequence type remains a continuing area of research at OSU.
Among other accomplishments of the group was the early development of the use RFLP mapping of Acanthamoeba mitochondrial DNA for phylogenetic analysis, the development of numerous PCR primers that allowed rapid diagnosis of Acanthamoeba in clinical samples, and the first proposal of an allele designation system to identify genetic variability within Acanthamoeba sequence types.
We have been very privileged to cooperate with numerous collaborators at other institutions. Among the most important have been scientists at the CDC in Atlanta (Govinda Vishvesvara and colleagues), at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Medicine (Charlotte Joslin and Elmer Tu), at the California Department of Public Health (Fred Schuster, and Thelma Dunnebacke), colleagues at the Instituto Technologica de Sonora in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico (Fernando Lares-Villa and Luis Fernando Lares). Many other investigators of Acanthamoeba and Balamuthia have been generous in providing information and samples that allowed our work to be successful. We are very thankful to all of these colleagues around the world.