The role of the innate and adaptive immune responses in Acanthamoeba Keratitis
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Infections of the corneal surface are an important cause of blindness. Protozoal, viral, bacterial, and helminthic infections of the cornea account for up to nine million cases of corneal blindness. Free-living amoebae of the genus Acanthamoeba produce a progressive infection of the cornea called Acanthamoeba keratitis. Disease is usually transmitted by Acanthamoeba trophozoites bound to soft contact lenses. Infection of the cornea is initiated when the parasite binds to the corneal epithelial surface. Recrudescence can occur and suggests that the adaptive immune response is not aroused by corneal Acanthamoeba infections. Systemic immunization with Acanthamoeba antigens elicits robust Th1 cell-mediated immunity and serum IgG antibody, yet fails to prevent the development of Acanthamoeba keratitis. However, immunization via mucosal surfaces induces anti-Acanthamoeba IgA antibodies in the tears and provides solid protection against the development of Acanthamoeba keratitis. Unlike other immune effector mechanisms that rely on cytolysis, inflammation, release of toxic molecules, or the induction of host cell death, the adaptive immune apparatus prevents Acanthamoeba infections of the cornea by simply preventing the attachment of the parasite to the epithelial surface. The beauty of this mechanism lies in its exquisite simplicity and efficacy.
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J.Y. Niederkorn, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Texas 75390-9057, USA