Diagnosis

Imaging tests

Computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can reveal swelling and bleeding within the brain.

  • CT scan. This procedure combines X-ray views taken from many different directions into detailed cross-sectional images.
  • MRI. An MRI machine uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce extremely detailed images of soft tissues, such as the brain.

Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)

Naegleria amoeba can be seen under a microscope in the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. The spinal fluid is obtained by inserting a needle between two vertebrae in your lower back. This test also can measure the cerebral spinal fluid pressure and look for inflammatory cells.

Treatment

Few people survive naegleria infection, even with treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for survival.

The primary treatment for naegleria infection is an antifungal drug, amphotericin B — usually injected into a vein (intravenously) or into the space around your spinal cord to kill the amoebas.

An investigational drug called miltefosine (Impavido) is now available for emergency treatment of naegleria infection through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The medicine, when taken with other medications and along with aggressive management of brain swelling, may show promise for improved survival.

Preparing for your appointment

If you believe you or your child may have naegleria infection, seek immediate medical attention. You might want to make a list of answers to the following questions:

  • What are the signs and symptoms?
  • When did they start?
  • Does anything make them better or worse?
  • Has the person been swimming in fresh water within the past two weeks?
July 16, 2015
References
  1. Naegleria fowleri — Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) — Amebic Encephalitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/index.html. Accessed June 4, 2015.
  2. Seas C, et al. Free-living amebas. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 4, 2015.
  3. Naegleria fowleri — General information. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html. Accessed June 4, 2015.
  4. Naegleria fowleri — Treatment. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/treatment.html. Accessed June 9, 2015.
  5. Steckelberg JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 9, 2015.