Balamuthia infection is very rare. The Balamuthia amebas can infect the skin, sinuses, brain and other organs of the body. Therefore, Balamuthia infection can cause a wide range of symptoms. Disease can begin with a skin wound on the face, trunk, or limbs and can then progress to the brain where it cause a disease called Granulomatous Amebic Encephalitis (GAE)[1,2]. Diagnosis of Balamuthia GAE can be difficult, but some early symptoms may include:
- Stiff neck or head and neck pain with neck movement
- Sensitivity to light
- Lethargy (tiredness)
- Low-grade fever
Other signs of Balamuthia GAE may include:
- Behavioral changes
- Weight loss
- Partial paralysis
- Speech difficulties
- Difficulty walking
Balamuthia can also cause a widespread infection involving multiple body parts.
The disease might appear mild at first but can become more severe over weeks to several months[1,3]. Often the disease is fatal, with a death rate of more than 95%. Overall, the outlook for people who get this disease is poor, although early diagnosis and treatment may increase the chances for survival.
- Perez MT, Bush LM. Fatal amebic encephalitis caused by Balamuthia mandrillaris in an immunocompetent host: a clinicopathological review of pathogenic free-living amebae in human hosts. Ann Diagn Pathol. Dec 2007;11(6):440-447.
- Maciver SK. The threat from Balamuthia mandrillaris. J Med Microbiol. Jan 2007;56(Pt 1):1-3.
- Visvesvara GS, Moura H, Schuster FL. Pathogenic and opportunistic free-living amoebae: Acanthamoeba spp. , Balamuthia mandrillaris, Naegleria fowleri, and Sappinia diploidea. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. Jun 2007;50(1):1-26.
- Siddiqui R, Khan NA. Balamuthia amoebic encephalitis: an emerging disease with fatal consequences. Microb Pathog. Feb 2008;44(2):89-97.