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Free Living Amebic Infections

[Acanthamoeba spp.] [Balamuthia mandrillaris] [Naegleria fowleri] [Sappinia spp.]

Diagnostic Findings

In Naegleria infections, the diagnosis can be made by microscopic examination of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). A wet mount may detect motile trophozoites, and a Giemsa-stained smear will show trophozoites with typical morphology. In Acanthamoeba infections, the diagnosis can be made from microscopic examination of stained smears of biopsy specimens (brain tissue, skin, cornea) or of corneal scrapings, which may detect trophozoites and cysts. Confocal microscopy or cultivation of the causal organism, and its identification by direct immunofluorescent antibody, may also prove useful. An increasing number of PCR-based techniques (conventional and real-time PCR) have been described for detection and identification of free-living amebic infections in the clinical samples listed above. Such techniques may be available in selected reference diagnostic laboratories.

Real-Time PCR

A real-time PCR was developed at CDC for identification of Acanthamoeba spp., Naegleria fowleri, and Balamuthia mandrillaris in clinical samples.1  This assay uses distinct primers and TaqMan probes for the simultaneous identification of these three parasites.

More on: TaqMan real-time PCR

  1. Qvarnstrom Y, Visvesvara GS, Sriram R, da Silva AJ. Multiplex real-time PCR assay for simultaneous detection of Acanthamoeba spp., Balamuthia mandrillaris, and Naegleria fowleri. J Clin Microbiol 2006;44(10):3589-3595.

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  • Page last reviewed November 29, 2013
  • Page last updated November 29, 2013
  • Content source: Global Health - Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria
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