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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 78-88

Balamuthia mandrillaris: An opportunistic, free-living ameba – An updated review

1 Department of Microbiology, Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute, Puducherry, India
2 Vice Chancellor, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Puducherry, India

Correspondence Address:
Namrata K Bhosale
Department of Microbiology, Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute, Pillaiyarkuppam, Pondy-Cuddalore Main Road, Pondicherry - 607 402
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/tp.tp_36_21

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Balamuthia mandrillaris is an opportunistic, free-living ameba that is pathogenic to humans. It has a worldwide distribution but is mainly detected in warmer regions. Balamuthia infections are rare but have been reported in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised individuals of all ages. B. mandrillaris can enter through wounds on the skin or the nose and cause cutaneous lesions and the usually fatal Balamuthia amebic encephalitis (BAE). Infection usually spreads from the lungs or through nerve fibers, and attacks the central nervous system, forming granulomatous lesions and necrosis in the brain. Balamuthia infection is usually chronic, and patients initially present with nonspecific symptoms, including headache, nausea, myalgia, and low-grade fever. As the disease progresses, the patient becomes paralyzed and comatose, often leading to death. Lack of knowledge of predisposing factors, specific treatment, and standardized detection tools have resulted in a nearly cent percent fatality rate. Although only about 200 cases have been reported worldwide since its characterization in the 1990s, the number of reported cases has increased over the years. BAE is an emerging disease and a major health concern. Few patients have survived Balamuthia infections with antimicrobial treatment that has largely been empirical. Early diagnosis is the key and requires familiarity with the disease and a high degree of suspicion on the part of the diagnostician. There are currently no specific treatment and prevention recommendations. This review highlights our current understanding of B. mandrillaris in terms of its pathogenicity, genomics, and novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches against BAE infections.

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