Fatal 'brain-eating' amoeba successfully treated with repurposed UTI drug

Doctors utilized a medication commonly used for UTIs to effectively cure a patient's uncommon brain infection.

According to Science magazine, a long-used medication for uti may also treat "brain-eating" amoeba infections, which kill the majority of those who catch them .

A recent case report that depicts a 54-year-old man with the amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris invading his brain and was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases in January serves as evidence of the drug's potential. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the single-celled organism can enter the body through skin wounds and cuts as well as through the lungs when it is breathed. It is found in dust, dirt, and water (CDC). Once in the circulation, the amoeba can move to the brain, where it can cause an extremely uncommon sickness called "granulomatous amebic encephalitis," which kills 90% of those who have it.

The CDC states that the illness "may seem moderate at first but might develop more severe over weeks to many months."

The patient in the case report originally sought care for an unexplained seizure at a hospital in Northern California. His left side of the brain had a tumor that was encircled by edema, according to an MRI. The patient was then sent to the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, where specialists obtained samples of the patient's brain tissue and the transparent fluid encasing his or her brain and spinal cord. The man's brain contained B. mandrillaris, according to this research.

The patient's doctors suggested an extensive prescription of antiparasitic, antibiotic, and antifungal medications after contacting the CDC. As the primary author of the case study and an infectious disease physician-scientist at UCSF, Dr. Natasha Spottiswoode  stated to Science, "It's what's advised since it was what occurred to be used in patients who lived." Unfortunately, the medication had serious adverse reactions, including renal failure, and the patient still had amoebic infections.

Spottiswoode looked up a 2018 study from UCSF researchers that was published in the journal mBio, which revealed proof that the antibiotic nitroxoline may kill B. mandrillaris in lab conditions. The medical team requested authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to administer the medication as it is permitted in Europe but not the United States. They gained approval, began the patient on nitroxoline, and saw dramatic recovery within a week.

The patient was soon released from the hospital and continued to take nitroxoline and other medications at home. His doctors eventually want to have him stop taking the meds. Doctors from UCSF are managing the case of a second B. mandrillaris-infected patient who has begun taking nitroxoline in the meantime. According to Science, they are observing comparable benefits.