New test can detect deadly brain-eating amoeba infections in hours instead of days

ORLANDO, Fla. — A new test developed by AdventHealth speeds up the ability to detect deadly brain-eating amoeba infections to hours instead of days.

The new test reduces the time for a result from days to as little as five hours, which officials said is a significant improvement for an infection in which every second counts.


Officials said two cases of young patients who developed the infections led AdventHealth scientists to develop the new testing method, which can detect the three most common life-threatening amoebas found in freshwater.

“There are just no words to express how important this is,” said Steve Smelski, who along with wife Shelly, started the Jordan Smelski Foundation for Amoeba Awareness after their 11-year-old son died in 2014. “Many people don’t consider this diagnosis until it is too late.”

Read: How to avoid the brain-eating amoeba sometimes found in warm freshwater lakes

Officials said the process of developing the test took years, which included a pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic because the teams and equipment used to analyze amoeba samples were entirely devoted to coronavirus testing.

Dr. Jose Alexander, microbiologist and medical director of the microbiology virology department for AdventHealth Central Florida, said by the spring, COVID-19 infections waned enough for the teams to resume verifying the test.

The test officially became available to physicians this summer. It detects genetic material from the amoeba through a sample of cerebral spinal fluid.

Read: CDC: No brain-eating amoeba detected in Florida teenager

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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