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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 1, 2019

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Cancer Drug and Antidepressants Provide Clues for Treating Fatal Brain-Eating Amoeba Infections

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The amoeba Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in warm swimming pools, lakes and rivers. On rare occasions, the amoeba can infect a healthy person and cause severe primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a “brain-eating” disease that is almost always fatal. Other than trial-and-error with general antifungal medications, there are no treatments for the infection. 

Researchers at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California San Diego have now identified three new molecular drug targets in N. fowleri and a number of drugs that are able to inhibit the amoeba’s growth in a laboratory dish. Several of these drugs are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for other uses, such as antifungal agents, the breast cancer drug tamoxifen and antidepressant Prozac.

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