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Protothecosis: An Emerging Algal Disease of Humans and Animals

Mahendra Pal1, Ashebr Abraha1, Md. Tanvir Rahman2, and Pratibha Dave3
1. Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture, Addis Ababa University, P.B. No. 34, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia
2. Department of Microbiology and Hygiene, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh-2202, Bangladesh
3. Welfare Hospital and Research Center, Bharauch-392001, Gujarat, India
Abstract—Protothecosis is an emerging environmental algal disease of humans, and animals caused by Prototheca species which are unicellular, achlorophyllous saprophytic algae. Human infections are primarily caused by P. wickerhamii, where as animal disease is mainly due to P. zopfii. The disease can occur in sporadic as well as in epidemic form, and is reported from many countries of the world including India. The source of infection is exogenous as the organism exists in the environment as saprobe. The exact route of infection is not clearly established. However, accidental inoculation of organism into the skin through wound or traumatic injury may result in cutaneous infection. In dairy animals, trauma to teats may predispose to mastitis. In humans, Prototheca mostly cause cutaneous infections, and olecranon bursitis with repeated traumatic inoculation. However, in immunosuppressed individuals, it can disseminate to viscera causing life threatening sepsis. Cholestatic jaundice and hepatitis are the typical clinical presentation of systemic protothecosis. Direct detection of pathogen in clinical specimens, and its isolation in pure and luxuriant form still remains the main stay of confirming the diagnosis of disease. There are evidences to believe that saprobic environment may serve as source of infection to man and animal. Immediate attention to skin injury, prompt chemotherapy in immunocompromised patient, avoiding contact with stagnant water, good animal husbandry practices, and hygienic methods of milking will certainly reduce the prevalence of disease in humans and animals. It is recommended that ‘Narayan” stain should be widely employed in Public Health and Microbiology laboratories to study the morphology of Prototheca which are attributed in various clinical disorders of humans and animals. Further studies on the chemotherapy and epidemiology of protothecosis seem imperative to control this emerging algal disease. 

Index Terms—algae, animal, emerging disease, environment, human, narayan stain, protothecosis

Cite: Mahendra Pal, Ashebr Abraha, Md.Tanvir Rahman, and Pratibha Dave, "Protothecosis: An Emerging Algal Disease of Humans and Animals," International Journal of Life Sciences Biotechnology and Pharma Research, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 1-13, October 2014.
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