The amoeba Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in warm swimming pools, lakes and rivers. On rare occasions, the amoeba can infect a healthy person and cause severe primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a “brain-eating” disease that is almost always fatal. Other than trial-and-error with general antifungal medications, there are no treatments for the infection.
Recently, the amoeba was found in a Texas city’s water supply after it caused the death of a 6-year-old child.
Anjan Debnath, PhD, assistant professor at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California San Diego and an expert on N. fowleri, is available to discuss the amoeba, how it damages the brain and efforts to find treatments.
Debnath and team recently discovered several drugs that can inhibit the amoeba’s growth in laboratory experiments. Several of these drugs are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for other uses, such as the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, antidepressant Prozac and cholesterol-lowering statins.