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Acanthamoeba spp. and Balamuthia mandrillaris leading to fatal granulomatous amebic encephalitis


Acanthamoeba spp. and Balamuthia mandrillaris are free-living amebae known to cause disseminated and fatal central nervous system dysfunction which manifests as granulomatous amebic encephalitis (GAE) with exceedingly rare frequency. We report two lethal cases of infection with free-living amebae: an acute case of Acanthamoeba spp. infection in an immunocompromised female and a subacute case of B. mandrillaris in a Hispanic male. The Acanthamoeba spp. infection presented with an atypical lesion in the thalamus that caused rapid deterioration of the patient while the case of B. mandrillaris had a prolonged clinical course with multifocal lesions beginning in the frontal lobe. Cerebrospinal fluid results were non-specific in both cases, however, post-mortem histology demonstrated the presence of trophozoites along a perivascular distribution of necrosis and infiltrate composed primarily of neutrophils. In addition to detailing the clinical presentations of these infrequent amebic infections, we offer insight into the difficulties surrounding their diagnoses in order to aid the clinician in accurate and timely identification.

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Correspondence to Steven E. Fiester.

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Lee, D.C., Fiester, S.E., Madeline, L.A. et al. Acanthamoeba spp. and Balamuthia mandrillaris leading to fatal granulomatous amebic encephalitis. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 16, 171–176 (2020).

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  • Acanthamoeba
  • Balamuthia mandrillaris
  • Granulomatous amebic encephalitis
  • Free-living amoeba