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Protozoa are single-celled eukaryotes (organisms whose cells have

nuclei) that commonly show characteristics usually associated with
animals, most notably mobility and heterotrophy.
They are often grouped in the kingdom Protista together with the
plant-like algae and fungus-like water molds and slime molds.
In some newer schemes, however, most algae are classified in the
kingdoms Plantae and Chromista, and in such cases the remaining
forms may be classified as a kingdom Protozoa.
The name is misleading, since they are not animals (with the possible
exception of the Myxozoa).
Protozoa have traditionally been divided on the basis of locomotion.
Most protozoans are too small to be seen with the naked eye - most
are around 0.01-0.05 mm, although forms up to 0.5 mm are still fairly
common - but can easily be found under a microscope.


(Source: Biodiversity Institute of Ontario)

The taxonomic kingdom Protista is a collection of single celled organisms
that do not fit into any other category. Protists are a group made up of
protozoa, unicelular algae and slime molds. We will concentrate on the
animal portion of this group: the protozoa (proto=first, zoa=animals).
Protozoa are the oldest known group of heterotrophic life-that consume and
transforms complex food particles into energy. Although protozoans are
only made up of a single cell these organisms manage to perform all the
basic tasks of life.
The protozoa are divided into four major groups: the ciliates, the flagellates,
the heliozoans, and the amoebas.

Morphology (General)

Structure in this group is fairly diverse but almost all species retain a few
basic characters which helps to identify them as ciliates. The first character
is the presence of cilia on at least one developmental stage of the organism.
Modifications from the full body covered norm include a single ring of cilia,
grouped ciliary organelles called cirri, and restriction of cilia to feeding
tentacles. Most species also bear toxicysts that are most likely used to
capture and stun prey. These toxicysts can be found around the mouth, along
the length of tentacles or anywhere else on the surface of the cell body.

Flagellates:( Zoomastigophora)
Flagellates are characterized by having one or more flagella. Parasitic
species generally have more flagella than those that are free living.

Amoebas: Sarcodina
Amoebas can reach a maximum size of 2 mm in diameter. These protozoans
are constantly changing shape; they look and move much like balloons half
filled with water. When manipulating a water balloon you can force most of
the water to one end or hold it so different sections squeeze out between
your fingers. Amoebas change shape like that, only the forces are internal.
They can create extensions of their body wall called pseudopodia that help
them locomote or capture prey or simply churn up their insides to distribute
nutrients. The shape of a pseudopod is generally reflective of the family
grouping to which it belongs.

Freshwater radiolarans: Heliozoa

The most identifiable characteristic of the heliozoans is the presence of
axopodia. This is a type of pseudopod strengthened by tiny microtubules that
extend into solid protective rods. Some marine heliozoans (radiolarians)
have a protective exoskeleton of silica, but freshwater species just have tiny
silica scales or a perforated capsule.

Morphology (Structures)

All five groups of protozoans include some sessile species but most are
swimmers. Ciliates use their many tiny cilia, in controlled waves, to propel
themselves through the water. Flagellates have a single posterior flagella that
pushes them forward in much the same way as a motor boat uses its
propeller. Amoebas locomote by shifting cytoplasm inside their bodies to
create pseudopods which slowly pull the organisms along. Finally,
heliozoans combine the efforts of cilia and axiopods to maneuver their way
through the water.
All protozoans have chemical or tactile senses to detect other members of
their own species for sexual reproduction, but many of these chemicals have
not yet been studied in detail. A sensory structure has been identified in
ciliates. Kineties (found beneath the surface of the cell membrane at the base
of each cilia), are organized in a brushlike formation at the mouth, are used
for prey recognition.

Because they are so tiny, protozoans do not need any specialized organelle,
such as red blood cells, to meet their oxygen demand. In fact, many can live
in water with very low concentrations of oxygen. Some ciliates have
specially adapted green algae living inside them. In higher light conditions
these algae convert the carbon dioxide produced by the ciliate into oxygen,
ensuring an abundant internal supply of oxygen for the ciliate. On the flip
side, a few groups are anaerobic and intolerant of oxygenated water. These
organisms are often endosymbionts living in the digestive system of multi-
celled animals.
Protists use contractile vacuoles to remove excess water from their cells. If
the contractile function of a cell is compromised, the cell swells until it
ruptures. The same will also happen to a marine protozoan when placed in
freshwater; marine members have no contractile vacuoles. Ciliates have
permanent contractile vacuole pathways and pores where amoebas will
release them from any point along the surface of its body.

Many protozoans reproduce both asexually and sexually during their
lifetime. The move to sex is often either controlled by an internal clock or by
the arrival of harsh environmental conditions.
The majority of protozoans reproduce asexually by binary fission. However,
some are endosymbionts (species that live within another organism) often
engage in multiple fission with many tiny cells produced from a single
parent cell released to search out a new host.
Sexual reproduction is common in ciliates, but rare in heliozoans and
amoebas, and absent in flagellates. The three basic types of sex are
gametogamy, autogamy, and conjugation—all of which are explained on the
reproduction strategies page.
Ciliates reproduce sexually through conjugation which involves the
exchange of haploid nuclei between two joined protists. Once the genetic
information is exchanged each of the ex-conjugants clones itself. These
resulting daughter cells go through a long period of "sexual immaturity"
where they will only reproduce asexually.
Flagellates employ their flagella for both swimming and acquiring food.
Sessile or colony forming members of the collared flagellates use their
flagella to create a water current to draw small food particles, such as water-
borne bacteria. These food particles are then trapped on mucous-coated
microvilli (peaks and valleys on the cell membrane which increase the
surface area of the cell for the purpose of absorption).
Large amoebas eat algae, other protists and some tiny multicelled animals,
while smaller amoebas feed on bacteria. Amoebas ingest particles by
phagocytosis. They wrap themselves around the food particle and once
enclosed it is embedded within a food vacuole for digestion. Amoebas can
capture food with pseudopods made of any outer area of the cells, so their
whole body surface is a potential mouth! The same is true for pinocytosis
(the "drinking" of organic substances) and the release of wastes that are
contained in contractile vacuoles.
Ciliates have toxicysts which they fire at their prey to subdue it. Sessile
forms (e.g. Suctioria) use haptocysts on feeding tentacles to snag smaller
ciliate prey and then suck out the nutritious cytoplasm.
Heliozoans engulf any organism ranging from picoplankton to copepods.
Extrusomes at the base of the axiopoda secrete cytoplasm over the axiopoda.
Food sticks to the cytoplasm, and the flow of the liquid brings the food
towards the cell where pseudopods reach out to grab it.

Types of Protozoan Diseases

By Norah Faith, eHow Contributor
Protozoa are single celled beings, some of which cause diseases
in humans. The protozoan diseases vary from mild to life threatening.
Almost all human beings have protozoa in their body at some point in
their lifetime. However, in this age of acquired human immune
deficiency syndrome (AIDS), certain protozoa that once caused mild
or no disease have become life threatening. A good example is
Pneumocystis carinii. This protozoa is found in the lungs of many
healthy people. However, in patients with "AIDS" it can cause fatal

1. The deadliest of the protozoan diseases, malaria is one of the

top five "killer" infectious diseases. The causative agent is the
genus plasmodium of the phylum protozoa. It includes P.vivax,
P.falciparum, P.ovale and P.malariae. Nearly, 800,000 people die
of malaria every year. It is transmitted by the female anopheles
mosquito. Once they enter the human body, they undergo
maturation in the liver and blood cells. Symptoms include fever
with chills and rigor followed by excessive sweating. P.falciparum,
if not detected early, can cause cerebral malaria and death.

Treatment is with 4-aminoquinolines, which include chloroquine

and the newer sesquiterpine lactones like artesunate and

Malaria causes
Malaria Symptoms, Causes, Remedy and Diet

Caused by a tiny parasite called Plasmodium

Malaria is caused by a tiny parasite called Plasmodium. The
parasite grows in the liver of a person for a few days and
then enters the bloodstream where it invades the red blood
cells. The disease spreads from a sick person to a healthy
one by the bite of an infected female anopheles mosquito.
She draws a small quantity of blood containing the parasites
when she bites a person who has malaria. These parasites
then pass through several stages of development within the
mosquito's body, and finally find their way to its salivary
glands. There they lie in wait for an opportunity to enter the
bloodstream of the next person the mosquito bites. The
malaria-carrying mosquito breeds in stagnant water.

Naturopathy says wrong feeding habits and a faulty style of

According to naturopathy, however, the real causes of
malaria are wrong feeding habits and a faulty style of living,
which result in the system being clogged with accumulated
systemic refuse and morbid matter. It is on this soil that the
malaria germ breeds. The liberal intake of flesh foods, tinned
and other denatured foods, and alcoholic beverages lowers
the vitality of the system and paves the way for the
development of malaria.
Malaria diet
Malaria : Home Remedies suggested by users

Fast on orange juice and water for a few days

Diet is of utmost importance in the treatment of malaria. To
begin with, the patient should fast on orange juice and water
for a few days, depending on the severity of the fever.

Fresh-fruit diet
After the fever has subsided, the patient should be placed on
an exclusive fresh-fruit diet for the first few days. Milk may
then be added to the diet.

Well-balanced diet, emphasis on fresh fruits, and raw vegetables

Thereafter, the patient may gradually embark upon a well-
balanced diet of natural foods, with emphasis on fresh fruits,
and raw vegetables.

Prevent mosquito bites, cleanliness of surrounding areas

Malaria can be prevented by protection against Malaria can
be prevented by protection against mosquito bites,
cleanliness of surrounding areas, and ensuring that there is
no pool of SL.1.gnant water lying around. , and ensuring
that there is no pool of stagnant water lying around.

Protozoan Diseases - GIARDIASIS

Most common intestinal protozoan parasite of people in the U.S.

Giardia lamblia - has both a cyst (infective) and trophozoite form


The parasite occurs worldwide and is nearly universal in children in
developing countries. Humans are the reservoir for Giardia, but dogs
and beavers have been implicated as a zoonotic source of infection.
In psittacines, the disease is commonly found in cockatiels and
budgerigars. Giardiasis is a well-recognized problem in special
groups including travelers, campers, male homosexuals, and persons
with impaired immune states. However, Giardiasis does not appear to
be an opportunistic infection in AIDS.

Only the cyst form is infectious by the oral route; trophozoites are
destroyed by gastric acidity. Most infections are sporadic, resulting
from cysts transmitted as a result of fecal contamination of water or
food, by person-to-person contact, or by anal-oral sexual contact.
After the cysts are ingested, trophozoites emerge in the duodenum
and jejunum. They can cause epithelial damage, atrophy of villi,
hypertrophic crypts, and extensive cellular infiltration of the lamina
propria by lymphocytes, plasma cells, and neutrophils.

Most infections are asymptomatic. In some cases, acute or chronic
diarrhea, mild to severe, with bulky, greasy, frothy, malodorous
stools, free of pus and blood. Upper abdominal discomfort, cramps,
distention, excessive flatus, and lassitude.

Diagnosis is by identifying cysts or trophozoites in feces or duodenal
fluid. Unless they can be examined with an hour, specimens should
be preserved immediately in a fixative. Three stool specimens should
be examined at intervals of 2 days or longer. A stool ELISA test or
IgM serology are available.

Tinidazole, Metronidazole (FLAGYL), quinacrine, or furazolidone.
Alternative drugs are Tinidazole or albendazole.

Fecals to screen dogs and NHP's. Hygiene, protective clothing, when
handling animals. Prevention requires safe water supplies, sanitary
disposal of human feces, adequate cooking of foods to destroy cysts,
protection of foods from fly contamination, washing hands after
defecation and before preparing or eating foods, and, in endemic
areas, avoidance of foods that cannot be cooked or peeled.
1. Holozoic Nutrition
The majority of Protozoans nourish themselves in the manner as the higher
organisms did. They are able to feed on various micro-organisms, rotifers,
crustaceans, other protozoans etc. Such protozoans are termed as Holozoic.
They may be carnivorous, herbivorous, omnivorous or scavangerous.
Holozoic nutrtion is also termed as zootrophic nutrition. This type of
nutrition involves three basic steps:
A. Food Capture and ingestion
The regular method of food intake is also termed as phagocytosis, which
differs greatly in different classes of protozoa. The locomotory organelles
play an important role in food capture and ingestion. Rhumbler has defined
four methods in which the locomotory organelles participate in food capture
and ingestion.
a. Circumvallation
This method is very common Amoeba. Here the prey is surrounded by the
locomotory organelle termed as pseudopodia from all the sides without
coming in direct contact with the prey and a cup is formed. The food cup is
later on completed by forming a food vacuole enclosing the prey with large
amount of water.
b. Circumfluence
This method is aided by the locomotory organelles termed as axopodia and
reticulopodia for capturing an immobile prey. A food cup is formed by direct
contact with the prey and cytoplasm flows around the prey for engulfing it.
c. Invagination
In this case, the prey is first killed by a toxin secreted by the pseudopodia
and then it is enclosed in the form of a food vacuole along with cytoplasm.
d. Import
In this case, the passive prey like the filamentous alga is simply drawn into
the body upon contact and ingested. The general body surface plays an
important role in this process.
B. Digestion and Assimilation
Digestion is always intracellular. The food vacuole is surrounded by a film.
Acids, alkalies and enzymes are poured over the food to ensure digestion.
The reaction is first acidic then alkaline. The prey is killed in the acidic
environment which lasts for 4-60 minutes. Digestion mostly occurs in the
alkaline phase. The digestive enzymes are aided by the lysosomes. Protein
splitting proteases and starch splitting amylases are of wide occurrence. The
presence of fat splitting lipase is controversial.
C. Egestion
In naked forms like Amoeba, the undigested matter goes out from the hinder
part of the body. In some ciliates egestion occurs through a permanent
opening present at the posterior end of the body termed as cytopyge.
2. Holophytic Nutrition
This mode of nutrition is also termed as autotrophic nutrition. This is very
common in chlorophyll bearing flagellates. These organisms carry out
photosynthesis with the help of carbon dioxide, water and chlorophyll. The
oxygen is liberated and the left carbon is used for making food. The starch is
stored in the form of amylum but in Euglena it is stored in the form of
paramylum which is not colored blue with iodine. Certain protozoans house
symbiotic green alga that carry out photosynthesis and provides food to
3. Saprozoic Nutrition
This mode of nutrition is also termed as osmotrophy. Here the flagellates
that are in direct contact with the organic matter of the decomposed plants
and animals obtain their nourishment. They obtain their food in the form of
dissolved material.
4. Pinocytosis
This is also termed as cell drinking.It was first studied by Mast and Doyle in
1934 in Amoeba proteus. Pinocytotic channels are formed in the body for
absorbing liquid food from the surrounding medium. This method helps the
organism in getting higher molecular compounds from the surrounding
5. Parasitic Nutrition
The Sporozoans are completely parasitic and obtain their nourishment by
living as parasites in the body of other animals. They fall under two
a. Commensals
They feed on the raw or digested material of the host in saprozoic manner.
They are harmless endocommensals. E.g., Nyctotherus, Balantidium
b. Pathogenic
About 26 species of protozoa are known to be parasitic to humans. They are
responsible for causing dreadful diseases like Sleeping sickness, Malaria etc.
6. Coprozoic Nutrition
Many free living Protozoans feed on the faecal matter of other animals and
are termed as coprozoic. Eg., Cercomonas etc.
7. Mixotrophic Nutrition
Several Protozoans are able to get their nutrition in more than one way.
Euglena gracilis is able to take nutrition both holophytically as well as
In 1985 the Society of Protozoologists published a taxonomic scheme that
distributed the Protozoa into six phyla. Two of these phyla—the
Sarcomastigophora and the Apicomplexa--contain the most important species
causing human disease. This scheme is based on morphology as revealed by
light, electron, and scanning microscopy. Dientamoeba fragilis, for example, had
been thought to be an ameba and placed in the family Entamoebidae. However,
internal structures seen by electron microscopy showed that it is properly placed
in the order Trichomonadida of flagellate protozoa. In some instances, organisms
that appear identical under the microscope have been assigned different species
names on the basis of such criteria as geographic distribution and clinical
manifestations; a good example is the genus Leishmania, for which subspecies
names are often used. Biochemical methods have been employed on strains and
species to determine isoenzyme patterns or to identify relevant nucleotide
sequences in RNA, DNA, or both. Extensive studies have been made on the
kinetoplast, a unique mitochondrion found in the hemoflagellates and other
members of the order Kinetoplastida. The DNA associated with this organelle is
of great interest. Cloning is widely used in taxonomic studies, for example to
study differences in virulence or disease manifestations in isolates of a single
species obtained from different hosts or geographic regions. Antibodies
(particularly monoclonal antibodies) to known species or to specific antigens from
a species are being employed to identify unknown isolates. Eventually, molecular
taxonomy may prove to be a more reliable basis than morphology for protozoan
taxonomy, but the microscope is still the most practical tool for identifying a
protozoan parasite. Table 77-1 lists the medically important protozoa.

Reproduction in the Protozoa may be asexual, as in the amebas and flagellates that infect
humans, or both asexual and sexual, as in the Apicomplexa of medical importance. The most
common type of asexual multiplication is binary fission, in which the organelles are duplicated
and the protozoan then divides into two complete organisms. Division is longitudinal in the
flagellates and transverse in the ciliates; amebas have no apparent anterior-posterior axis.
Endodyogeny is a form of asexual division seen in Toxoplasma and some related organisms.
Two daughter cells form within the parent cell, which then ruptures, releasing the smaller progeny
which grow to full size before repeating the process. In schizogony, a common form of asexual
division in the Apicomplexa, the nucleus divides a number of times, and then the cytoplasm
divides into smaller uninucleate merozoites. In Plasmodium, Toxoplasma, and other
apicomplexans, the sexual cycle involves the production of gametes (gamogony), fertilization to
form the zygote, encystation of the zygote to form an oocyst, and the formation of infective
sporozoites (sporogony) within the oocyst.
Some protozoa have complex life cycles requiring two different host species; others require only
a single host to complete the life cycle. A single infective protozoan entering a susceptible host
has the potential to produce an immense population. However, reproduction is limited by events
such as death of the host or by the host's defense mechanisms, which may either eliminate the
parasite or balance parasite reproduction to yield a chronic infection. For example, malaria can
result when only a few sporozoites of Plasmodium falciparum—perhaps ten or fewer in rare
instances—are introduced by a feeding Anopheles mosquito into a person with no immunity.
Repeated cycles of schizogony in the bloodstream can result in the infection of 10 percent or
more of the erythrocytes—about 400 million parasites per milliliter of blood.

Protozoa were previously often grouped in the kingdom of Protista, together with the plant-like algae and
fungus-like slime molds. As a result of 21st-century systematics, protozoa, along with ciliates,
mastigophorans, and apicomplexans, are arranged as animal-like protists. With the possible exception of
Myxozoa, protozoa are not categorized as Metazoa.[7] Protozoans are unicellular organisms and are often
called the animal-like protists because they subsist entirely on other organisms for food. Most protozoans
can move about on their own. Amoebas, Paramecia, and Trypanosomes are all examples of animal-like

Protozoa have been divided traditionally on the basis of their means of locomotion, although this character
is no longer believed to represent genuine relationships:

• Flagellates (e.g. Giardia lamblia)

• Amoeboids (e.g. Entamoeba histolytica)
• Sporozoans (e.g. Plasmodium knowlesi)
o Apicomplexa
o Myxozoa
o Microsporidia
• Ciliates (e.g. Balantidium coli)