Proposals for amendments in the diagnosis and treatment of encephalitis caused by free-living amoebae

Document Type



Biological and Biomedical Sciences


Encephalitis caused by Free-living amoebae (FLA) has a mortality rate of around 95-98%, a fraction that has not changed in the past decades. Pathogenic FLA include Acanthamoeba, Balamuthia mandrillaris, and Naegleria fowleri that are known to target the brain after an extra cerebral infection in the case of Acanthamoeba and Balamuthia mandrillaris, or directly the brain, as in the case of the Naegleria fowleri. The Acanthamoeba spp. and Balamuthia mandrillaris cause granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE) while Naegleria fowleri, the so termed "brain eating amoeba" causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The attempts to obtain a speedy diagnosis and an aggressive treatment protocol are the areas where advances can make a difference and reduce the mortality rates. At first, we highlight the reasons behind the diagnostic delays and treatment failures and provide proposals to establish a quick diagnosis in both PAM and GAE. Secondly, we emphasize the use of a transcribrial device, and a prompt, but vigilant surgical reduction of the intracranial pressure in these patients which could be life-saving. We also debate that an exudate obtained from the olfactory region by irrigation via a modified transcribrial device or by conventional methods, instead of a cerebrospinal fluid sample, could serve as a source of obtaining amoeba in PAM for a real-time polymerase chain reaction-based definitive diagnosis of PAM. Also introduced is the rationale that has the potential to deliver the drugs to the brain in patients with PAM and the GAE localized to the frontal lobe of the brain, by bypassing the blood brain barrier. We put forward these proposals for debate and deliberation to our fellow colleagues in order to spot the potential of their application to reduce the mortality rates caused by the rare but fatal encephalitis caused by these FLA.


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Infectious Disorders - Drug Targets