Free-living Amebic Infections

Causal Agents:
Naegleria fowleri and Acanthamoeba spp., are commonly found in lakes, swimming pools, tap water, and heating and air conditioning units. While only one species of Naegleria, N. fowleri, is known to infect humans, several species of Acanthamoeba, including A. culbertsoni, A. polyphaga, A. castellanii, A. astronyxis, A. hatchetti, A. rhysodes, A. divionensis, A. lugdunensis, and A. lenticulata are implicated in human disease. An additional agent of human disease, Balamuthia mandrillaris, is a related free-living ameba that is morphologically similar to Acanthamoeba in tissue sections in light microscopy. Sappinia is a genus of free-living amebae rarely isolated from humans; cysts and trophs have been found in the feces of many animals, including mammals and reptiles.


Life Cycle:
Free-living amebae belonging to the genera Acanthamoeba, Balamuthia, Naegleria and Sappinia are important causes of disease in humans and animals. Naegleria fowleri produces an acute, and usually lethal, central nervous system (CNS) disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Acanthamoeba spp. and Balamuthia mandrillaris are opportunistic free-living amebae capable of causing granulomatous amebic encephalitis (GAE) in individuals with compromised immune systems. Sappinia diploidea has been implicated in a case of amebic encephalitis.


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