Science reports that an old drug to treat urinary tract infections may also work against the “brain-eating” amoebic infections that kill the vast majority of people who contract them.
The drug’s effect was described in a recent case report published in January in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which describes a 54-year-old man whose brain was hacked by the amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single-celled organism lives in dust, soil and water and can enter the body through wounds on the skin or through the lungs through inhalation. The amoeba can then enter the bloodstream and enter the brain, causing a very rare infection called granulomatous amoebic encephalitis, which kills about 90% of those infected. The disease may seem mild at first, but may become more severe over several weeks or several months.
The man in the case history was being treated for an initially unexplained seizure at a Northern California hospital. An MRI revealed a mass on the left side of his brain surrounded by a bulge. At this point, the man was taken to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, where doctors took samples of the patient’s brain tissue and the clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This analysis identified the mandrillaris bacteria in the man’s brain.
After consulting with the CDC, the patient’s doctors prescribed a strict regimen of antiparasitic, antibacterial, and antifungal drugs.
Unfortunately, the treatment caused serious side effects, including kidney failure, and the patient has not yet recovered from the amoebas.
Looking for another solution, Dr. Natasha Spottiswoode, an infectious disease scientist at the University of California, San Francisco and the first author of a clinical case, turned to a 2018 report published in the journal mBio in which UC San Francisco scientists found evidence that an antibiotic called nitroxoline can kill mandrillaris.
The drug was approved in Europe but not in the US, so the medical team requested approval for its use from the Food and Drug Administration. They got approved, started taking nitroxoline, and saw a rapid improvement within a week.
The patient was soon discharged from the hospital and continued to take nitroxoline at home along with other medications. His doctors plan to eventually stop using drugs. Meanwhile, UCSF doctors are monitoring a second B. mandrillaris-infected patient who has been started on nitroxoline.
And Science reports that they are seeing similar improvements.
Source: Living Science
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