Medical Definition of Balamuthia mandrillaris

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Balamuthia mandrillaris: a type of free-living amoeba (ameba) found in the wild. Balamuthia is a parasite that can infect humans and cause a very rare, serious, often fatal infection of the brain and spinal cord called Granulomatous Amebic Encephalitis (GAE). The organism was first discovered in 1986. Balamuthia is believed to enter the body through contamination of skin cuts with contaminated soil, or when dust containing the parasite is inhaled or gets in the mouth. The infection the enters the bloodstream and spreads to the brain. Early symptoms of GAE are similar to those of meningitis and include headaches, neck stiffness, pain with neck movement, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. The initial illness may be mild, but symptoms can progress and become life-threatening over weeks to months.

Reviewed on 1/8/2019

REFERENCE: Parasites - Balamuthia mandrillaris - Granulomatous Amebic Encephalitis (GAE). CDC. Updated: Feb 17, 2016.

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