For the first time, a man was rescued whose brain was hit by a killer amoeba

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 For the first time, a man was saved whose brain was hit by a killer amoeba

Doctors from the University of California at San Francisco have described the first ever successful treatment of brain infection by the single-celled amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris. Science writes about this.

The lethality of such cases was more than 90%, and there was no specific therapy for them. Using modern DNA reading technology as a diagnostic method, as well as an experimental substance that had not previously been tested for such indications, scientists managed to stop the infection and bring the person back to life.

The infection occurred in northern California in the summer of 2021. A 54-year-old man was admitted to a state hospital with disorientation, speech impairment and partial paralysis. After the tomography, it turned out that large-scale damage of an unknown nature began in his brain. The doctors had to do a biopsy of the nervous tissue – a rather dangerous procedure, but it brought results. Once it was decided to perform a complete DNA reading from the brain sample, it was possible to match the genetic material in the biopsy with the DNA sequence of this rare amoeba and thus confirm the infection with Balamuthia mandrillari.

The patient was saved only because a few years ago, researchers from the University of California and Biolab, sponsored by the Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan foundation, laboratory tested a library of more than two thousand compounds for their effect on Balamuthia mandrillari.

One compound that showed relatively good results was nitroxoline. This long-known substance has not been registered as an antiparasitic agent and has never even been tested on humans. However, in the case of a Californian patient, doctors were able to obtain emergency Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its use. Nitroxoline, commonly used to treat bacterial infections and a type of bladder cancer, was unexpectedly effective in fighting the neuron-destroying amoeba. Progress in combination therapy was seen as early as day 15, and since then the patient's condition has not deteriorated.

The amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris itself, like its well-known distant relative Naegleria fowleri, usually lives in soil and water and leads a free life without being a parasite. However, in very rare cases, it is able to sink into the brain. This can occur as a result of bathing in warm water from stagnant bodies of water, when the amoeba enters the nasal cavity, and then through the olfactory epithelium enters the nerves and eventually moves to the brain.

If the infection has already occurred, the body is almost helpless against the invasion of amoebas. Single-celled animals begin to eat brain cells instead of their usual food, soil and water bacteria, and the immune system in the vast majority of cases cannot do anything about it. Due to the destruction of neurons, human cognitive functions gradually degrade, and inflammation of the brain ultimately leads to death.

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