Understanding Acanthamoeba Infection: An Overview

What are Acanthamoeba and where can they be found?

Invisible to the naked eye, there are microscopic amoeba, known as Acanthamoeba, all around us. While some are completely harmless to humans, certain species of Acanthamoeba are known to endanger human beings. Such species include: A. healyi, A rhysodes, A. polyphaga, A. hatchetti, A. culbertsoni, A. astronyxis, and A. castellanii.

The varying species of Acanthamoeba are all around us in our every day environment. Typically, the Acanthamoeba inhabit natural as well as man made fresh water sources, dust, and soil. Some species of Acanthamoeba thrive in salt water and therefore can be found in oceans and seas. Acanthamoeba have also been located in humidifiers, air conditioning units, dialysis units, central heating systems, and air vents within a building. If you wear contact lenses, the cases for your lenses may be housing some Acanthamoeba! You may even be carrying Acanthamoeba in your throat and nose as a perfectly healthy individual. Acanthamoeba can also live in the bodies of unhealthy individuals who have weakened immune systems.

How exactly do Acanthamoeba Infections occur and are they contagious?

Microscopic amoeba can infiltrate the human body via any open wounds, even the tiniest of paper cuts. Acanthamoeba can also enter the human body through your nostrils. Having entered through a vulnerable opening, the Acanthamoeba travel through the blood to reach organs such as lungs. Acanthamoeba can also reach the brain and the spinal cord which comprise the central nervous system. People who wear contact lenses risk Acanthamoeba infections from inadequate care of their contact lenses. From inadequate cleaning or improper handling, your contact lenses and the accessories involved may harbor harmful Acanthamoeba which can enter your eye.

People who suffer from weak immune systems or a chronic illness are more vulnerable to Acanthamoeba infections than the average healthy individual. Fortunately, there have been no reports of Acanthamoeba infections spreading from person to person. This means that normal contact with a person with an Acanthamoeba infection does not put you at risk of infection yourself.

Can Acanthamoeba infections treated?

Most cases of Acanthamoeba infections of the eye and skin are treated quite successfully. Unfortunately, Acanthamoeba infections in the brain have often proved fatal, through there have been some reports of successful recovery with prompt treatment.

How can Acanthamoeba infections be prevented?

Unfortunately, not much can be done to prevent Acanthamoeba infections of the body and skin, however, do take care not to expose open wounds and cuts to infectious areas. If you are a user of contact lenses, make certain that you adhere to proper sanitation and storage guidelines provided to you by a medical professional. Consult your medical professional for tips, advice, and recommendations for the best commercial contact lens cleaning solution.

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