Naegleria fowleri, or the “brain-eating amoeba”, is a free living parasite that causes a relatively rare, nearly 100 percent fatal disease in humans called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

Naegleria fowleri Life Cycle/CDC
Naegleria fowleri Life Cycle/CDC

Treatment for the amoeba has largely been unsuccessful.

Now a University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health (COPH) professor and his team of researchers have zeroed in on compounds that could one day lead to fast-acting treatments for the fatal infection caused Naegleria fowleri.

In a study published online this month in the  journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Dr. Dennis Kyle and his fellow researchers show that the two new compounds they identified were 500 times more potent than drugs currently used to combat the amoeba’s fatal infection.

LISTEN: USF professor Dr. Sandra Gompf talks about Naegleria fowleri Amoeba awareness: Naegleria fowleri

Despite PAM’s dire prognosis, its rarity has made it an “orphan disease” – with no concerted efforts to discover new drugs to treat people affected by it, said Dr. Kyle, a professor of global health in the USF College of Public Health.

“One of the major problems is that there have been few people working on it,” he added.

Dr. Kyle had studied Naegleria fowleri as a Ph.D. student. In the decades that followed, his expertise and specialization took him elsewhere into antimalarial drug research and to prominent national and international positions – including as deputy director of the Division of Experimental Therapeutics for the U.S. Army’s Drug and Vaccine Development Programs; and also as the chair of the Genomics and Discovery Research Steering Committee and the Compound Evaluation Network for the World Health Organization.

Read the rest of the USF release HERE