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Acanthamoeba Infection

 Eye inflammation
 Early inflammation due to Acanthamoeba keratitis.
(Photo courtesy of Dan B. Jones, M.D.)

Acanthamoeba is a microscopic, free-living ameba that is relatively common in the environment. This ameba has been isolated from water (including natural and treated water in pools or hot tubs), soil, air (in association with cooling towers, heating, ventilation and air conditioner [HVAC] systems), sewage systems, and drinking water systems (shower heads, taps). Most people will be exposed to Acanthamoeba during their lifetime and will not get sick. However, Acanthamoeba is capable of causing several infections in humans.

  • Acanthamoeba keratitis – A local infection of the eye that typically occurs in healthy persons and can result in permanent visual impairment or blindness.
  • Granulomatous Amebic Encephalitis (GAE) – A serious infection of the brain and spinal cord that typically occurs in persons with a compromised immune system.
  • Disseminated infection – A widespread infection that can affect the skin, sinuses, lungs, and other organs independently or in combination. It is also more common in persons with a compromised immune system.

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Page last modified: June 11, 2008
Page last reviewed: June 11, 2008
Content Source: Division of Parasitic Diseases (DPD)
National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases (ZVED)
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