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Investigational Drug Showing Promise in Amoeba Cases

Two recent cases of the so-called brain eating amoeba are triggering fears among some recreational swimmers, and with good reason. Although infections from the amoeba are rare- they are almost always fatal. But an investigational treatment is showing some promise.

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[Life cycle of the naegleria fowleri amoeba]

The amoeba- Naegleria fowleri- can be present in warm, fresh water. And if you happen to get a snoutful of that water, the amoeba has a chance to enter your brain. Children tend to be more susceptible, but victims of any age almost never live.  In the past 50-years, only two people have been known to survive an amoeba infection, until this past July, when an infected 12-year old girl in Arkansas received an investigational treatment released by the CDC.  When a second case surfaced a couple of weeks later in Hendry County, Florida, the treatment was released again. CDC Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Cope says the medication is in use in different parts of the world for different amoeba infections- but it hasn’t been used naegleria infections.

“The infection that has the most data for the use of this drug is another type of parasitic infection called leishmaniasis and that infection is not all that common in the United States, so it’s used around the world in other countries for that infection, and that’s where a lot of the studies on this drug have been done,” she says.

The medication has been shown to kill the naegleria amoeba in the lab, and seems to have cleared the Arkansas patient of it as well, but Cope says it is much too soon to determine whether this treatment is actually a cure.  But she says the CDC is expected to release the drug again whenever the next case of naegleria surfaces.  


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