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Information for Public Health & Medical Professionals

Clinicians: For 24/7 diagnostic assistance, specimen collection guidance, shipping instructions, and treatment recommendations, please contact the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100.

Clinicians: CDC now has an investigational drug called miltefosine available for treatment of free-living ameba (FLA) infections caused by Naegleria fowleri, Balamuthia mandrillaris, and Acanthamoeba species. If you have a patient with suspected FLA infection, please contact the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 to consult with a CDC expert regarding the use of this drug.


Video: CDC Expert Commentary on Medscape

A screenshot of Jennifer Cope speaking in the medscape interview, "Brain-Eating Ameba - Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis"

Brain-Eating Ameba: Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis

CDC expert Dr. Jennifer Cope discusses the brain-eating ameba Naegleria fowleri, advises clinicians on how to recognize and treat the infection, and provides prevention messages that you can share with your patients.


Although most cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) caused by Naegleria fowleri infection in the United States have been fatal (127/128 in the U.S., 1), there have been two well-documented survivors in North America: one in California 2, 3 and one in Mexico 4. It has been suggested that the survivor’s strain of Naegleria fowleri was less virulent, which contributed to the patient’s recovery. In laboratory experiments, the California PAM survivor’s strain did not cause damage to cells as rapidly, suggesting that it was less virulent than strains recovered from other fatal infections 5. Multiple other patients have received treatments similar to the California PAM survivor, including amphotericin B, miconazole/fluconazole/ketoconazole, and/or rifampin. They did not survive, making it difficult to determine the efficacy of the treatment regimen.

References
  1. Yoder JS, Eddy BA, Visvesvara GS, Capewell L, Beach MJ. The epidemiology of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis in the USA, 1962-2008. Epidemiol Infect. 2010;138:968-75.
  2. Seidel JS, Harmatz P, Visvesvara GS, Cohen A, Edwards J, Turner J. Successful treatment of primary amebic meningoencephalitis. N Engl J Med. 1982;306:346-8.
  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. 2007;50:1-26.
  4. Vargas-Zepeda J, Gomez-Alcala AV, Vasquez-Morales JA, Licea-Amaya L, De Jonckheere JF, Lores-Villa F. Successful treatment of Naegleria PAM using IV amphotericin B, fluconazole, and rifampin. Arch Med Res. 2005;36:83-6.
  5. John DT, John RA. Cytopathogenicity of Naegleria fowleri in mammalian cell cultures. Parasitol Res. 1989;76:20-5.
 
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  • Page last reviewed: November 14, 2013
  • Page last updated: November 14, 2013
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