As the Australian Reference laboratory for the identification of amoebae, AWQC functions as a centre of expertise and are responsible for facilitating the standardisation of techniques relevant to amoebae that include:

  • development of new procedures for the diagnosis and control
  • publication and dissemination of information on laboratory testing for amoeba
  • gathering, processing, analysis and distribution of epidemiological data, and
  • participation in scientific and technical studies in collaboration with other laboratories or organisations.

There are several groups of amoebae that are natural aquatic or soil organisms but are also opportunistic pathogens; that is, infection is coincidental to their normal life cycle.

Naegleria fowleri

The waterborne disease primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM, sometimes called amoebic meningitis) was discovered at the Adelaide Children's Hospital in the 1960s. While it is a rare disease, there have been more than 20 fatal cases in Australia. It has since been reported from about 15 other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America.

PAM is caused by Naegleria fowleri, and follows intranasal infection during swimming in warm, contaminated freshwater. Most victims have been children and the disease is almost invariably fatal. Infections have been linked with warm waters such as above-ground pipelines, tropical lakes, geothermal water, heated swimming pools or discharges of industrial cooling water.

Temperatures favourable for N. fowleri growth (grows fastest at 42˚C) occur in water piped above ground and in other man-made environments. N. fowleri exists in various forms including a dormant cyst which survives low temperature. These cysts have poor resistance to desiccation, so that this species rarely occurs in soil.

Control of Naegleria fowleri: Chlorine kills all life-cycle stages of Naegleria fowleri and is the most effective way to disinfect swimming pools. However, in rural water supplies chlorine does not always reach areas that the amoebae may colonise.


Acanthamoeba is a group of amoebae unrelated to Naegleria, but also free-living. Acanthamoeba occur in freshwater, soil and marine environments. The dormant stage (cyst) is highly resistant to desiccation in most species, making Acanthamoeba the most common protozoa in soil.

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* <1/L

Sample container
600mL sterile plastic (PT600)

PT600 - sterile - sodium thio - air gap, ice

Analytes & holding times
Amoebae – Naegleria fowleri (96 hours as per in-house validation).  Amoebae samples are not to be chilled.

Air gap essential.

Storage and preservation
Iced or chilled to 4°C.
Sodium thiosulphate dosed.

Aseptic preparation is mandatory. Bottle to be double bagged with zip locks for storage on ice.

Detection of amoebae, concentrated from water samples, requires relatively simple growth media and standard laboratory incubation facilities.

Identification of Acanthamoeba species is more specialised. These amoebae are most likely to be significant in specific investigations of sources of infection, when comparison with reference strains would be essential to their identification.