An enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay was developed to quantify the number of Giardia sp. trophozoites attached to a substratum. Trophozoites were allowed to attach for 5 or 10 min to untreated or modified substratum, or allowed to attach in the presence of cytoskeletal inhibitors. Microtubule inhibitors, cochicine and nocodazole, were ineffective in blocking attachment, although the actin-disrupting agent cytochalasin B produced significant inhibition of attachment. Three different mucins were associated with significant inhibition of Giardia trophozoite attachment, which was reversed by treating the mucin-coated wells with 0.1% poly-l-arginine. Examination of mucin-treated substrata by high-resolution field emission scanning electron microscopy showed the presence of thin linear fibrils, whereas treatment of mucin-coated wells with poly-l-arginine revealed similar fibrils but of thicker dimensions. These data support the concept that mucin may inhibit Giardia sp. trophozoite attachment in vitro by electrostatic repulsion and that this can be eliminated by treatment of mucin-coated surfaces with polycationic agents, such as poly-l-arginine or poly-l-lysine.

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