In view of the interest in genotype-specific pathogenesis in Giardia duodenalis, the aim of the present study was to examine the effects of infection with different, or mixed, G. duodenalis assemblages on the integrity of human intestinal epithelia. To that end, human epithelial cells (HCT-8) were cultured and exposed to different G. duodenalis assemblages (A, B, and E) or a combination of these assemblages. Epithelial disruption and apoptosis were evaluated by fluorescent microscopy and apoptotic oligonucleosome quantification. The results indicate that infection with trophozoites disrupts epithelial tight junctions and induces varying degrees of enterocyte apoptosis, depending on the infecting assemblage. All disruptions were caspase-3 dependent and were more pronounced when caused by a non-host specific assemblage. Furthermore, infections by isolates in combination with isolates from another assemblage enhanced the epithelial disruption and apoptosis. Further studies in vitro and in vivo are required to confirm the mechanisms of enhanced pathogenicity of mixed or non-host specific (or both) G. duodenalis infections. Findings in the present study point to the potential pathogenic importance of intra-species polyparasitism in giardiasis.

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