Brain-Eating Amoebae Be Gone!

Scientists in Malaysia have discovered that anti-seizure drugs coupled with silver nanoparticles could be used to kill brain-eating amoebae.

AsianScientist (Oct. 30, 2018) – In a study published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, scientists in Malaysia have developed silver nanoparticles coated with anti-seizure drugs that can kill brain-eating amoebae while sparing human cells.

Halloween is celebrated with ghoulish costumes, trick-or-treating, and often, scary movies about brain-eating zombies. But even more frightening are real-life parasites that attack the human brain, which can be harder to kill than their horror-movie counterparts.

Although infections with the brain-eating amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) are rare, they are almost always deadly. Most cases result from inhaling warm, dirty water in ponds, hot springs or unchlorinated swimming pools. Another species, Acanthamoeba castellanii, can cause blindness by entering the eyes through dirty contact lenses. Common treatments against these amoebae include antimicrobial drugs, but they often cause severe side effects because of the high doses required for them to enter the brain.

In the present study, researchers led by Dr. Ayaz Anwar at Sunway University, Malaysia, wondered if three anti-seizure drugs—diazepam, phenobarbitone and phenytoin—could kill amoebae, alone or in combination with silver nanoparticles. The drugs are already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and are known to cross the blood-brain barrier. The researchers reasoned that the anti-seizure drugs might be more effective when attached to silver nanoparticles, which can improve drug delivery while also possessing inherent antimicrobial effects.

The team chemically attached the drugs to silver nanoparticles and examined their ability to kill amoebae. They found that each of the three drugs alone could kill N. fowleri and A. castellanii, but they worked much better when bound to silver nanoparticles. The drug-nanoparticle combination also protected human cells from the amoebae, with treated cells exhibiting an increased survival rate compared with untreated controls, reported the authors.

The researchers propose that these repurposed FDA-approved anti-seizure drugs, aided by the nanoparticles, might kill amoebae by binding to protein receptors or ion channels on the single-celled organisms’ membranes.

The article can be found at: Anwar et al. (2018) Clinically Approved Drugs against CNS Diseases as Potential Therapeutic Agents To Target Brain-Eating Amoebae.


Source: Sunway University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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