A fatal case of meningoencephalitis due to a free-living amoeba of uncertain identity—probably acanthamoeba SP
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There are 2 main types of meningoencephalitis caused by free-living amoebae. The first is a well-defined acutely fatal disease resembling fulminating bacterial meningitis. It is caused by the single species Naegleria fowleri. The second is a more poorly defined disease that runs a subacute or chronic course and is characterized by focal granulomatous lesions in the brain. The causative organisms are probably Acanthamoeba sp. in most cases, but it is possible that other genera may be involved. The first case of the subacute form of the disease to be recognized in Australia is described. A 2 1/2-yr-old, previously well girl presented with ataxia and lower motor neurone paralyses. The cerebrospinal fluid was pleocytic and she was thought to be suffering from a relatively minor viral brain-stem encephalitis. Her symptoms persisted in a peculiarly fluctuating way for 30 d when she suddenly collapsed and died from an intracranial haemorrhage. Necropsy showed focal granulomatous lesions associated with necrotizing vasculitis in the basal regions of the brain. The lesions contained well preserved free-living amoebae which were morphologically different from N. fowleri and most closely resembled Acanthamoeba sp. The ultrastructure of the organisms was particularly well preserved and is described in some detail. Immunohistological studies also excluded N. fowleri but were inconclusive for Acanthamoeba or other genera of free-living amoebae. Difficulties with the diagnosis and treatment of this disease are discussed and some practical suggestions are made.
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