NIH awards grant to Dr. Dennis Kyle for brain-eating amoebae drug discovery
The National Institute for Allergy Immunology and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded a two year grant for $463,998 to Dennis E. Kyle, PhD, and colleagues for a project entitled “New Therapies for Pathogenic Free-Living Amoebae.” The goals of the study are to discover new drugs to treat the fatal neurological diseases caused by Naegleria fowleri and various species of Acanthamoeba. The project involves collaboration between Dr. Kyle, Dr. David Boykin, a medicinal chemist and emeritus professor at Georgia State University, and biomedical engineers Drs. Anil Achyuta and Wajeeh Saadi of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.
Small, free-living amoebae (FLA) are ubiquitous in nature and are found in soil, fresh water, and marine environments. Most of the FLA feed on bacteria and are of no medical importance, yet several genera and species of FLA are known to causes serious, usually fatal disease in humans and animals. N. fowleri thrives in warm, freshwater and is the causative agent of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). This disease is characterized by a fulminant, rapidly fatal encephalitic disease that most often afflicts healthy young humans. Acanthamoeba spp. are more ubiquitous and found in water (fresh and saline) and soil. Multiple species of Acanthamoeba are known to cause granulomatous amoebic encepahalitis (GAE), a chronic disease seen most often in immunocompromised people and those at risk of opportunistic infections. Acanthamoeba spp. also causes amoebic keratitis, skin, nasopharyngeal, and disseminated infections.
Pathogenic free-living amoebae are the epitome of the neglected emerging infections, with no major drug discovery efforts conducted by pharmaceutical companies or academics and the continued use of empirically derived drug regimens that rarely prevent fatal disease. According to available on line records, this grant is the first ever made by NIAID to discover new drugs for these rare, yet devastating diseases.
Dr. Dennis Kyle is a professor in the USF College of Public Health, Department of Global Health. In 2011, he was named USF Health Distinguished Professor, the highest honor bestowed on a member of the USF Health faculty. Dr. Kyle currently serves as vice president of the Southeastern Society of Parasitologists, an active regional affiliate of the American Society of Parasitologists.