Acanthamoeba is a microscopic free-living amoeba that can cause infections rare but serious eye, skin and central nervous system.
The amoeba is found all over the world in the environment in water and soil. The amoeba can be transmitted to the eye through the use of contact lenses, cuts or sores on the skin or be inhaled into the lungs. Most people will be exposed to Acanthamoeba during their lifetime, but few become ill from this exposure.
The three diseases caused by Acanthamoeba are:
Acanthamoeba keratitis – An infection of the eye that typically occurs in healthy persons and can result in permanent visual impairment or blindness.
Granulomatous Amebic Encephalitis (GAE) – A serious infection of the brain and spinal cord that typically occurs in persons with a compromised immune system.
Disseminated infection – A widespread infection that can affect the skin, sinuses, lungs, and other organs independently or in combination. It is also more common in persons with a compromised immune system.