Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size
Users Online: 228
Home | About us | Editorial board | Search | Ahead of print | Current issue | Archives | Submit article | Instructions | Subscribe | Contacts | Login 

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 64-67  

Face to face: Balantioides coli: A forgotten parasite

Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, Federal Fluminense University, Niterói, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Laboratory of Toxoplasmosis and other Protozoa, Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Date of Submission25-Jan-2021
Date of Decision25-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance11-Feb-2021
Date of Web Publication14-May-2021

Correspondence Address:
Alynne Da Silva Barbosa
Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, Federal Fluminense University, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/tp.tp_5_21

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Silva Barbosa AD. Face to face: Balantioides coli: A forgotten parasite. Trop Parasitol 2021;11:64-7

How to cite this URL:
Silva Barbosa AD. Face to face: Balantioides coli: A forgotten parasite. Trop Parasitol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 28];11:64-7. Available from: https://www.tropicalparasitology.org/text.asp?2021/11/1/64/315933

  1. As an eminent member of various prestigious organizations, please share your views and experiences in parasitology.

The world of parasitology is extremely fascinating and rich, with many knowledge gaps still to be filled and answered through the scientific research. In general, I have been working at the University in participants of human and veterinary parasitology with different professors, and this diversity of participants has motivated me more and more to seek and work with important themes for animals, but also for human beings. In the Parasitology, I have been working directly with PhD Otilio Machado Pereira Bastos and PhD Claudia Maria Antunes Uchôa, also professors at the Federal Fluminense University and with PhD Maria Regina Reis Amendoeira, researcher at Fiocruz, great sources of inspiration in the field of teaching, research and extension, mainly for me, a young professor at the University. It is also worth mentioning that in the field of research I worked with PhD Francisco Ponce Gordo of the Complutense of Madrid University, an extremely experienced professional in the field of Parasitology with an emphasis on the phylogeny of ciliates as Balantioides coli, the parasitic protozoan that causes balantidiasis.

1. As B. coli (formerly known as Balantidium coli) are one of your specialized areas of research, please shed some light on its current trends.

Currently, the number of manuscripts with this protozoan has increased modestly, highlighting publications of book chapters and reviews. However, there are still few researchers who actually work with B. coli, that is, who carry out experiments with diagnostic techniques, including studies of morphology and phylogeny, as well as in vitro and in vivo experiments, which are fundamental to generate the information about the metabolism, physiology, pathogenesis/virulence mechanism, epidemiological data, and treatment. The current and fundamental trend, which cannot be overlooked by researchers, is to always try to prioritize molecular diagnosis to confirm possible infections in different host species by B. coli, since the Phylum ciliophora has several genera and similar species in its morphology, which can be misdiagnosed when using only microscopic parasitological diagnosis. It is noteworthy that in balantidiasis, the infected host, including the human being, may present severe symptoms and may progress to death quickly.

2. What are your other areas of interest in parasitology research?

Nowadays, I also work on the assessment of parasite biodiversity in captive and free living wild animals, both in urban and wild environments, including protected areas in Atlantic Forest biome such as Serra dos Órgãos National Park, Itatiaia National Park and PedraSelada State Park, and in their surroundings.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5] In addition, our research groups have been working with protozoa that can cause damage to the health of animals and even problems to public health due to the potential for zoonotic transmission evidenced by any of these agents. Within this context, helminths and apicomplexan protozoa are included, which can infect domestic animals in urban and rural environments.[6],[7],[8],[9]

3. Please share your work experience, especially related to culture media and diagnostic techniques of B. coli and its applications.

In addition to being active in different research in Parasitology, our group has a high interest in protozoa that can cause damage to the health of animals and humans as B. coli. In this context, we have analyzed this parasite in in vitro culture media, in order to standardize the isolation and maintenance of B. coli in these systems. In general, the direct inoculation of B. coli trophozoites in modified Pavlova and TYSGM-9 subcultivated culture mediums at 48 h intervals has shown satisfactory results for the isolation and maintenance of this protozoan in the long time.[10],[11] It is important to emphasize that in vitro culture has an unquestionable value, since it allows expanding the number of B. coli trophozoites, which can be used in other studies, such as in the evaluation of drugs and diagnostic tests, in ultrastructural and metabolic analyses, in description of the parasite's biological cycle and the pattern of pathogenicity and virulence. Moreover, the isolated in culture media can be used for more reliable phylogenetic analyses, as it is a material with a lower number of inhibitors and with a greater amount of DNA of the parasite of interest.[12] Still within the context of the diagnosis, the group has evaluated the performance of different parasitological techniques to verify the most suitable for the detection of B. coli. In this context, direct examination and coproparasitological sedimentation techniques showed the best results to recover and detect forms of this protozoan.[13]

4. What is the main role of its animal reservoir and its transmission patterns of B. coli to human in the world?

It is known that pigs are considered the main reservoirs of B. coli, and the proximity of humans to this animal has favored its transmission. In addition, wild pig can contaminate the environment with protozoan cysts, resistance structures, which can be ingested by humans when they ingest contaminated water and food, such as fruits and vegetables. It should be noted that recently cystic forms compatible with B. coli were detected in wild pig by our group in the Itatiaia National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[1] It is known that other animals, such as nonhuman primates, are also frequently parasitized by B. coli, also acting as sources of infection mainly for professionals, such as veterinarians and other keepers who work directly with these animals. In general, developing countries, where there is a lack of basic sanitation, are the ones that present the largest number of cases of human balantidiasis. In Brazil, specifically Rio de Janeiro city, our research group detected B. coli as the main parasite in pig breeding in the industrial and family farms, as well as in a herd of captive nonhuman primates in different institutions.[14],[15],[16],[17] However, in animal handlers, there was no evidence of evolutionary forms of this parasite.[18] It should be noted that this monitoring continues to be carried out by our group, not only within the scope of the research, but also with a focus on rural extension, through the mediation of information with small rural pig producers on the parasite with a focus on the forms of prevention.

5. What is your take on the morphological and ultrastructural characteristics of B. coli isolates from pigs and nonhuman primates compared with those recovered from humans?

The ultrastructural characteristics of B. coli are still poorly understood. When analyzing parasite isolates obtained from pig and nonhuman primate feces, our research group visualized the presence of cilia covering a large part of the parasite's body, including the oral cavity and internal structures that had already been described as vacuoles, macronucleus, as well as mucocyst-like organelles just below the cytoplasmic membrane and organelles similar to hydrogenosomes and peroxisomes.[19] In general, B. coli isolates obtained from human feces have not yet been well characterized using ultrastructural tools and thus descriptions and detailed comparisons with isolates obtained from pigs and other animals such as nonhuman primates are not yet reported.

6. You have worked mostly with gastrointestinal parasitic infections of animals, especially with cats. Do any of these pathogens have potential to become a serious human hazard?

Well this is quite interesting, in parallel to what we do, we still carry out research in collaboration with PhD Maria Regina Reis Amendoeira for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal parasites and also for the diagnosis of Toxoplasma gondii in biological samples of mammals, highlighting felids, humans, and birds. It is important to note that this parasite is zoonotic and its frequency in Brazil is quite high, emphasizing the importance of epidemiological parasitological studies for surveillances.

7. You have been working all over the world in this field. What is your opinion on the research approach in developing countries when compared to developed nations?

The support for research in developing countries as Brazil is scarce, a situation that often generates discouragement on the part of researchers. This lack of investment in research ends up greatly delaying the production of information, placing developing countries in a very unequal position when compared to more economically developed countries. Even so, in developing countries, some researchers are able to carry out extremely important punctual research in the field of human and veterinary parasitology. It is worth mentioning that, based on these specific surveys in these developing countries; the largest number of parasitic cases is generally reported. This fact occurs due to the favorable tropical climatic conditions for maintaining these biological agents in the environment, as well as due to the precarious socioeconomic conditions that end up favoring the transmission of these infectious agents.

8. In your opinion, what newer perspectives can be addressed in these national programs for eliminating parasites with multiple hosts?

The best approach to eliminate or control parasites with multiple hosts would be to develop programs based on the “one health” concept, that is, through programs that aim to integrate human, animal and environment health with the adoption of public programs for disease prevention and control at local, regional, national and global levels. In this approach, we have to understand that all professions must act together, to achieve all axes in the parasitic transmission chain.

9. Please share few words of advice for the budding scientists in the field of parasitology.

Parasitology is a wonderful area that includes extremely neglected biological agents as B. coli. In this way, the information generated with the research must not be informed only in scientific articles, it must be applied, disseminated, and mediated through extension activities to enhance the well-being and health of humans and animals, improving their quality of life through applied activities that are based mainly on the prevention of parasites.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

Alynne da Silva Barbosa is a Professor of Parasitology in the Department of Microbiology and Parasitology at Federal Fluminense University,Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She did a PhD in Tropical Medicine at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, doing part of her doctorate at the Complutense of Madrid University, a Master's Degree in Applied Microbiology and Parasitology at the Federal Fluminense University and an undergraduate degree in Veterinary Medicine at the Federal Fluminense University. Currently PhD Alynne da Silva Barbosa has mentored postgraduate and graduate students in different researchers. In addition, she is a member of the Brazilian College of Veterinary Parasitology, a member of the Brazilian Parasitology Society and a member of the Animal Ethics Committee of Federal Fluminense University.She is currently working on research on the morphological, biological and phylogenetic characterization of protozoa and helminths gastrointestinal of domestic and wild artiodactyls such as pig with a focus on the Balantioides coli protozoan, as well as with parasites of non-human primates and equine. In addition, it also has studies with piroplasmids of dogs and cats.

   References Top

Dib LV, Cronemberger C, Pereira FA, Bolais PF, Uchôa CM, Bastos OM, et al. Gastrointestinal parasites among felids inhabiting the Serra dos Órgãos National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2018;27:131-40.  Back to cited text no. 1
Dib LV, Palmer JP, de Souza Carvalho Class C, Pinheiro JL, Ramos RC, dos Santos CR, et al. Non-invasive sampling in Itatiaia National Park, Brazil: Wild mammal parasite detection. BMC Vet Res 2020;16:295.  Back to cited text no. 2
Dib LV, Palmer JP, de Lima CS, Ramos RC, Bastos OM, Uchôa CM, et al. Comparison of four parasitological techniques for laboratory diagnosis of eggs from Spirometra spp. in wild mammal fecal samples. Acta Parasitol 2019;64:942-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
Palmer JP, Dib LV, Lobão LF, Pinheiro JL, Ramos RC, Uchoa CM, et al. Oncicola venezuelensis (Marteau, 1977) (Acanthocephala: Oligacanthorhynchidae) in Puma concolor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2020;29:e009620.  Back to cited text no. 4
Barbosa AD, Dib LV, Uchôa CM, Bastos OM, Pissinatti A. Trypanoxyuris (Trypanoxyuris) minutus (Schneider, 1866) among Alouatta guariba clamitans (Cabrera, 1940) in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. J Med Primatol 2017;46:101-5.  Back to cited text no. 5
Pereira PF, Barbosa AD, Moura AP, Vasconcellos ML, Uchôa CM, Bastos OM, et al. Gastrointestinal parasites in stray and shelter cats in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2017;26:383-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
Pereira PF, Barbosa AD, Santos AL, Bolais PF, Dardé ML, Amendoeira MR. Toxoplasma gondii: Infection among shelter and stray cats in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2018;27:401-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
Santos FB, Gazeta GS, Correa LL, Lobão LF, Palmer JP, Dib LV, et al. Molecular evaluation of piroplasms and hematological changes in canine blood stored in a clinical laboratory in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2020;29:e012420.  Back to cited text no. 8
Trancoso TA, Lima ND, Barbosa AS, Leles D, Fonseca AB, Labarthe NV, et al. Detection of Dirofilaria immitis using microscopic, serological and molecular techniques among dogs in Cabo Frio, RJ, Brazil. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2020;29:e017219.  Back to cited text no. 9
Barbosa Ada S, Bastos OM, Uchôa CM, Pissinatti A, Ferreira Filho PR, Dib LV, et al. Isolation and maintenance of Balantidium coli (Malmsteim, 1857) cultured from fecal samples of pigs and non-human primates. Vet Parasitol 2015;210:240-5.  Back to cited text no. 10
Barbosa AD, Cardozo ML, Dib LV, Fonseca AB, Uchôa CM, Bastos OM, et al. Comparative study of three xenic media culture for cultivation of Balantidium coli strains. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2018;27:20-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
da Silva Barbosa A, Ponce-Gordo F, Dib LV, Antunes Uchôa CM, Bastos OM, Pissinatti A, et al. First molecular characterization of Balantioides coli (Malmsten, 1857) isolates maintained in vitro culture and from feces of captive animals, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Vet Parasitol Reg Stud Reports 2017;10:102-13.  Back to cited text no. 12
Barbosa Ada S, Bastos OM, Uchôa CM, Pissinatti A, Bastos AC, Souza IV, et al. Comparison of five parasitological techniques for laboratory diagnosis of Balantidium coli cysts. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2016;25:286-92.  Back to cited text no. 13
Barbosa AS, Bastos OM, Dib LV, Siqueira MP, Cardozo ML, Ferreira LC, et al. Gastrointestinal parasites of swine raised in different management systems in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Pesq Vet Bras 2015;35:941-6.  Back to cited text no. 14
Class CC, Silveira RL, Palmer JP, Fialho PA, Lobão LF, Dib LV, et al. Research and extension action for parasitic control in pig breeding families located in Tanguá, Rio de Janeiro. Pesq Vet Bras 2020;40:739-49.  Back to cited text no. 15
Barbosa ADS, Pinheiro JL, Dos Santos CR, de Lima CS, Dib LV, Echarte GV, et al. Gastrointestinal parasites in captive animals at the Rio de Janeiro Zoo. Acta Parasitol 2020;65:237-49.  Back to cited text no. 16
da Silva Barbosa A, Pissinatti A, Dib LV, de Siqueira MP, Cardozo ML, Fonseca AB, et al. Balantidium coli and other gastrointestinal parasites in captives non-human primates of the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. J Med Primatol 2015;44:18-26.  Back to cited text no. 17
Barbosa AS, Bastos OM, Uchôa CM, Dib LV, Amendoeira MR. Balantidium coli frequency evaluation in pig and nonhuman primate handlers in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rev Patol Trop 2016;45:285-93.  Back to cited text no. 18
Barbosa AD, Barbosa HS, Souza SM, Dib LV, Uchôa CM, Bastos OM, et al. Balantioides coli: Morphological and ultrastructural characteristics of pig and non-human primate isolates. Acta Parasitol 2018;63:287-98.  Back to cited text no. 19

This article has been cited by
1 The persistent challenges of malaria
SubhashChandra Parija
Tropical Parasitology. 2021; 11(1): 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded18    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal