Compound from medicinal herb kills brain-eating amoebae in lab studies — ScienceDaily


Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a deadly disease caused by the “brain-eating amoeba” Naegleria fowleri, is becoming more common in some areas of the world, and it has no effective treatment. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Chemical Neuroscience have found that a compound isolated from the leaves of a traditional medicinal plant, Inula viscosa or “false yellowhead,” kills the amoebae by causing them to commit cell suicide in lab studies, which could lead to new treatments.

PAM, characterized by headache, fever, vomiting, hallucinations and seizures, is almost always fatal within a couple of weeks of developing symptoms. Although the disease, which is usually contracted by swimming in contaminated freshwater, is rare, increasing cases have been reported recently in the U.S., the Philippines, southern Brazil and some Asian countries. Amphotericin B is the most common therapy given to those with the infection. It can kill N. fowleri in the lab, but it isn’t very effective when given to patients, likely because it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. Ikrame Zeouk, José Piñero, Jacob Lorenzo-Morales and colleagues wanted to explore whether compounds isolated from I. viscosa, a strong-smelling plant that has long been used for traditional medicine in the Mediterranean region, could effectively treat PAM.

The researchers first made an ethanol extract from the herb’s leaves, finding that it could kill N. fowleri amoebae. Then, they isolated and tested specific compounds from the extract. The most potent compound, inuloxin A, killed amoebae in the lab by disrupting membranes and causing mitochondrial changes, chromatin condensation and oxidative damage, ultimately forcing the parasites to undergo programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Although inuloxin A was much less potent than amphotericin B in the lab, the structure of the plant-derived compound suggests that it might be better able to cross the blood-brain barrier. More studies are needed to confirm this hypothesis, the researchers say.

The authors acknowledge funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the Spanish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, the University of La Laguna and the Augustin de Betancourt Foundation.

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Texas tap water safe to drink again after deadly brain-eating parasite found in supply | US News


Families in Texas have been told their tap water is safe to drink again after a brain-eating microbe was found in the water supply.

Officials in Lake Jackson said on Tuesday night that they are now satisfied the water is safe for residents to drink after around 27,000 were told not to take it fresh out of the tap.

Households were instructed to boil water before drinking it and take care not to get any up their noses last month after a deadly parasite called naegleria fowleri was detected in the local water system.

A six-year-old boy died after contracting the microbe on 8 September, NBC News reported.

Officials believe the microbe entered Josiah McIntyre’s body at a water park or through a hose at the family home.

He died at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, his mother Maria Castillo said.

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Naegleria fowleri was found in the water supply in Lake Jackson. File pic

Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in warm freshwater and soil, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose.

From there it travels to the brain and can cause a rare and debilitating disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. The infection is usually fatal.

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Contamination of public water systems in the US by the microbe is rare but not unheard of and last reported in southern Louisiana in 2013.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said in a statement: “Residents can drink tap water, but should continue to take proper precautions against Naegleria fowleri infection by preventing the water from going up their nose or sniffing water into their nose.”



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