About Pathogenic Free-Living Amoebae

Pathogenic free-living amoebae (PFLA) are found mainly in fresh water and soil, so take precautions to prevent infection and know the early warning signs to get treatment quickly.


Many of amoebic diseases are preventable by reducing at risk behaviors for example:

  • Do not swim in freshwater lakes or ponds. If you do, then don’t submerge your head under the water.
  • If using a neti-pot or nasal ablution to rinse the sinuses, DO NOT use tap water! and ALWAYS use sterile, distilled water or boil your tap water for three minutes and allow to cool before using.
  • Wear gloves while gardening or doing other work involving soil.
  • Do not top up your contact lens disinfectant solution.
  • Dry your hands before handling your contact lenses.
  • Do not shower, swim, or bathe while wearing contact lenses.
    sticker to remind contact lens patients not to allow water to come into contact with their lenses or cases.


Awareness is key! If you or a loved one falls acutely and suddenly ill after swimming in freshwater lakes or ponds, please inform a doctor right away. Mention the specific circumstances and ask them to consider Naegleria fowleri or another pathogenic amoeba! Early identification may just save your loved one’s life!

Naegleria is only known to cause CNS disease (in immunocompetent patients), while Acanthamoeba and Balamuthia can cause a range of other diseases, mainly in immunocompromised/immunodeficient or immunosuppressed patients, including cutaneous amoebiasis, a skin disease, and a systemic disseminated infection throughout multiple organs.

Fortunately, there have been no reports of amoebic infection spreading from person to person, except through organ donation/transplantation with immunosuppression.

More commonly, and in association with contact lens wearing and poor lens habits, Acanthamoeba can cause Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK). This is a serious infection of the eye that can result in permanent visual impairment or blindness in immunocompetent lens wearers!