- What is Balamuthia?
- Where is Balamuthia found?
- How do you get a Balamuthia infection and how is it spread?
- What are the signs and symptoms of a Balamuthia infection?
- How long after infection do symptoms appear?
- How long will symptoms last?
- Who is most likely to get a Balamuthia infection?
- What should I do if I think I may have a Balamuthia infection?
- What tests diagnose a Balamuthia infection?
- What is the treatment for a Balamuthia infection?
- Should I be worried about getting Balamuthia from others?
- How can I prevent a Balamuthia infection?
What is Balamuthia?
Balamuthia mandrillarisis a free-living ameba (a single-celled living organism) found in the environment. It is one of the causes of granulomatous amebic encephalitis (GAE), a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord. Balamuthia is thought to enter the body when soil containing Balamuthia comes in contact with skin wounds and cuts, or when dust containing Balamuthia is breathed in or gets in the mouth. The Balamuthia amebas can then travel to the brain through the blood stream and cause GAE. GAE is a very rare disease that is usually fatal.
Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first discovered Balamuthia mandrillaris in 1986. The ameba was found in the brain of a dead mandrill baboon. After extensive research, B. mandrillaris was declared a new species of ameba in 1993. Since then, more than 200 cases of Balamuthia infection have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases reported in the United States. Little is known at this time about how a person becomes infected.
Where is Balamuthia found?
Balamuthia has been found in dust and soil in many places around the world. It is possible that Balamuthia may also live in water.
How do you get a Balamuthia infection and how is it spread?
Balamuthia infection is not spread from person to person.
Balamuthia is thought to enter the body when soil containing Balamuthia comes in contact with skin wounds and cuts, or when dust containing Balamuthia is breathed in or gets in the mouth. Once inside the body, the amebas can travel through the blood stream to the brain, where they cause GAE. There are also a few reports of dogs that might have become infected after swimming in ponds.
Balamuthia infection can occur at any time of year.
What are the symptoms of a Balamuthia infection?
The symptoms of Balamuthia infection can begin with a skin wound on the face, chest, torso, arms, or legs. If the infection involves the brain, the disease it causes is called granulomatous amebic encephalitis (GAE). Diagnosis of Balamuthia GAE can be difficult, but some early symptoms might include:
- Stiff neck or head and neck pain with neck movement
- Sensitivity to light
- Lethargy (tiredness)
- Low-grade fever
Other signs of Balamuthia GAE might include:
- Behavioral changes
- Weight loss
- Partial paralysis
- Difficulty speaking in full sentences
- Difficulty walking
The disease might appear mild at first but can become more severe over weeks to several months. Often the disease is fatal, with a death rate of more than 89%. Overall, the outlook for people who get this disease is poor, although early diagnosis and treatment may increase the chances for survival.
How long after infection do symptoms appear?
It can take weeks to months to develop the first symptoms of Balamuthia GAE after initial exposure to the amebas.
How long will symptoms last?
GAE is chronic and symptoms develop over a period of several weeks to as long as 2 years. Although Balamuthia GAE is often fatal, there are several recorded cases of Balamuthia infection where the patients survived after long-term treatment with multiple drugs. In some of those cases, the patients were able to return to normal, functioning lives.
Who is most likely to get a Balamuthia infection?
Balamuthia can infect anyone; this includes persons that are healthy or persons with weakened immune systems (such as persons with HIV/AIDS, cancer, liver disease, diabetes mellitus and/or persons taking immunosuppressive drugs following organ transplantation).
What should I do if I think I may have a Balamuthia infection?
Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you think you may have a Balamuthia infection.
How is a Balamuthia infection diagnosed?
Doctors and scientists must use special research tests to identify Balamuthia. These tests are not widely available, but CDC is available to help with testing.
What is the treatment for a Balamuthia infection?
Currently, treatment recommendations include the use of a combination of several drugs. Most cases of Balamuthia are diagnosed right before death or after the patient has died. This delay in diagnosis limits the amount of experience doctors have using different drugs to treat Balamuthia infection. Current treatment plans are based on lab studies of the ameba and the few cases where the patients have survived.
Should I be worried about getting Balamuthia from others?
No. There have been no reports of a Balamuthia infection spreading from one person to another except through organ donation/transplantation.
How can I prevent a Balamuthia infection?
Currently, there are no known ways to prevent infection with Balamuthia since it is unclear how and why some people become infected while others do not. Research is currently underway to learn more about Balamuthia in hopes of finding ways to prevent future infections.
Top Balamuthia mandrillaris Related Articles
FeverAlthough a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
Cuts, Scrapes, and Puncture WoundsLearn about first aid for cuts, scrapes (abrasions), and puncture wounds, when to see a doctor, if tetanus shots are necessary, and how to spot signs of infection.
EncephalitisEncephalitis is a brain inflammation that causes sudden fever, vomiting, headache, light sensitivity, stiff neck and back, drowsiness, and irritability. Treatment may incorporate anticonvulsants and antiviral medications.
HeadacheHeadaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are considered primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by disease. Headache symptoms vary with the headache type. Over-the-counter pain relievers provide short-term relief for most headaches.
Nausea and VomitingNausea and vomiting are symptoms of many conditions including motion sickness, pregnancy, emotional stress, gallbladder disease, and other illnesses. Learn about causes, treatment, and when to be concerned.
Neck Pain (Cervical Pain)Neck pain (cervical pain, cervicalgia) may be caused by any number of disorders and diseases. Tenderness is another symptom of neck pain. Though treatment for neck pain really depends upon the cause, treatment typically may involve heat/ice application, traction, physical therapy, cortisone injection, topical anesthetic creams, and muscle relaxants.
Seizures: Symptoms and TypesSeizures occur when there is an abnormal burst of electrical activity in the brain and are divided into two categories: generalized and partial. Learn about the symptoms of different types of seizures, and check out the center below for more medical references on seizures, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related diseases, treatment, diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.