Groundbreaking Brain-Eating Amoeba Test Cuts Diagnosis Time from Days to Hours
Special to the FMA from AdventHealth | June 14, 2023

Last fall, AdventHealth physician Jose Alexander, MD, and his team researched and developed a new brain-eating amoeba test that can produce results within three hours.

Why it matters
Previously, testing routinely took up to six days, while the amoeba kills its host in only three to seven days, making identifying and treating the condition extremely urgent and difficult.

Key update
Over the past 10 months, Dr. Alexander, clinical microbiologist and director of microbiology, virology and immunology for AdventHealth Orlando, and his team have run several experiments on their recently developed brain-eating amoeba test to further improve its results. The result is an extended viable testing window, which allows for simplified shipping and accelerates diagnosis, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

“We’ve run these Rapid Amoeba PCR tests through several sample transportation temperatures to determine sample stability and quality,” Dr. Alexander said. “Spinal fluid samples can now be shipped at room temperature if testing is expected within 48 hours and refrigerated if expected within seven days.”

Dr. Alexander believes the enhanced sample stability for rapid Amoeba PCR testing at different temperatures is a game changer because it enables faster, more effective treatment for patients by simplifying and expediting specimen packaging and shipment, still providing accurate and reliable results by direct testing on the sample upon arrival.

Go deeper
The groundbreaking brain-eating amoeba test has changed the landscape of treatment for this severe and usually deadly infection by reducing the diagnosis time from days to hours. In fact, the brain-eating amoeba, also known as Naegleria fowleri, is one of several growing health concerns across the U.S. It kills more than 97% of people infected due to delays in identifying and treating the illness.

By going a step further and testing for stability and quality, Dr. Alexander and his team have developed a more efficient diagnostic tool for physicians that allows for a rapid turnaround time from collection to result without delays while still providing reliable and clinically actionable results. This sample shipping is available for cases that are too far from Orlando, such those in Miami or out of state.

“AdventHealth is accepting samples for testing from any hospital across the U.S.,” Dr. Alexander said.

For physicians with medical staff privileges at AdventHealth, this new test is currently available in Epic as “Amoeba Screen, CSF.” For physicians at AdventHealth locations not yet on Epic, the test is available as a send out to AdventHealth Orlando as a reference laboratory. All other physicians can contact Dr. Alexander at for more information or for potential cases.

To read more about the recently developed test used to detect brain-eating amoebas and discover how the team repurposed a test used for other viruses to drive the innovation journey, click here.