Illness & Symptoms
Balamuthia infection is a very rare and serious illness. 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 3, with a death rate of more than 89% 4. Overall, the outlook for people who get this disease is poor, although early diagnosis and treatment may increase the chances for survival 4.
- 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. 2007;11(6):440-7.
- Maciver SK. The threat from Balamuthia mandrillaris. J Med Microbiol. 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. 2007;50(1):1-26.
- Siddiqui R, Khan NA. Balamuthia amoebic encephalitis: an emerging disease with fatal consequences. Microb Pathog. 2008;44(2):89-97.
- Page last reviewed: February 17, 2016
- Page last updated: February 17, 2016
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