When you think of the infectious risks associated with improper use of contact lenses, the free-living amoeba Acanthamoeba typically comes to mind.

Contact lens
Image/Video Screen Shot

However, newly published research in the journal Parasitology Research reveals what is described as an “unexpected event”– the detection of Balamuthia mandrillaris ( another free living amoeba (FLA)) DNA  in a sample derived from the contact lens storage case solution of a patient with keratitis of unknown genesis in the context of routine screening for FLA.

Researchers tested the solution for FLA using culture methods and a triplex quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) targetingAcanthamoeba spp., Naegleria fowleri, and Balamuthia mandrillaris.

After 3 weeks incubation, cultures for FLA were negative. However, PCR testing did detect the presence of B. mandrillaris DNA.

Researchers write: The detection of B. mandrillaris DNA within the contact lens storage case solution was an “unexpected event” since this pathogen is usually the etiological agent of a chronic disease with nonspecific symptoms,Balamuthia amoebic encephalitis (BAE). Most of these BAE cases have been diagnosed postmortem which indicates the high fatality rate while it shows the rare and sporadic nature of cases.

LISTEN: Amoeba awareness, part 2: Balamuthia

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says Balamuthia infection is very rare. The Balamuthia amoebas can infect the skin, sinuses, brain and other organs of the body. The disease might appear mild at first but can become more severe over weeks to several months. Often the disease is fatal, with a death rate of more than 95%.