Decades-Old Drug Effective in Treating Brain Eating Amoeba

A drug used for decades to treat urinary tract infections may hold the key to treating the deadly brain-eating amoeba infections. This was recently demonstrated in a case report published in the journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases.”

Balamuthia mandrillaris is a single-celled organism that can enter the body through skin wounds or inhaling and can travel to the brain, triggering a rare infection called granulomatous amebic encephalitis that kills around 90% of those affected. A 54-year-old man in Northern California was recently diagnosed with the infection and received a regimen of antiparasitic, antibacterial and antifungal drugs, but it resulted in severe side effects and did not rid the patient of the amoeba. Marriage Relationships Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes: Study.

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Dr. Natasha Spottiswoode, an infectious disease physician-scientist at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center and first author of the case report, found a 2018 report in the journal mBio that revealed evidence that the antibiotic nitroxoline can kill B. mandrillaris in laboratory settings. Although not approved in the U.S., the medical team received permission from the Food and Drug Administration to use it and observed rapid improvement in the patient within a week.

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The patient was soon discharged from the hospital and continues to take nitroxoline, along with other medications. The UCSF team is now overseeing a second B. mandrillaris-infected patient who has started receiving nitroxoline and is showing similar improvements.

The discovery of nitroxoline’s effectiveness in treating brain-eating amoeba infections offers hope for those affected by this rare and deadly disease. The medical community will be closely monitoring the progress of patients receiving nitroxoline treatment to determine its long-term effectiveness.

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