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Why- Brain-Eating-Amoeba-is-fatal-what-are-the-precautionary-measures

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Brain-Eating Amoeba

Brain-Eating Amoeba 

The single-cell amoeba is harmless enough: they look like playful creatures that dance under the lights of a microscope until they encounter a host of bacteria. Then, this previously harmless amoeba suddenly turns into vicious bubbles, engulfing the bacteria and slowly rupturing them along with a host of digestive enzymes. It is hard to cry overkilled bacteria, but the digestive power of ameba is the stuff of nightmares when it occurs in the human brain.

 Cases Reported 

The brain-eating amoeba (naegleria-fowleri”,)is extremely rare, but also fatal. Only 146 cases have been reported in the United States since 1962, with only four surviving from the infection; so there is a 97% chance of dying. Sadly, on July 22, a 59-year-old man from North Carolina became the first person to die of infection this year after swimming in a lake in a water park. Lots of studies about these parasites have a special interest in those that target the brain, which is why these amoebas have caught my interest.


How does N. fowleri get into the brain of human,

N. fowleri inhabits warm bodies of fresh water where it feeds on bacteria found in sediments. As such, most infections with this amoeba in the United States have occurred in southern states, especially Texas and Florida, during the summer. When lake sediments are disrupted, the amoeba is moved in the water. Swimmers can then inhale the parasite through their noses. From there, N. fowleri invades the olfactory nerves and migrates to the brain, where it causes a dangerous condition called primary amebic meningoencephalitis.

 While swimming in freshwater is the most likely source of this amoeba, this organism and other types of amoeba can cause brain infections in people who use tap water instead of sterile water or saline when using a net pot to clean the nose.

The brain is hydrated and warm, just like the lakes and hot springs where amoebas thrive. But the brain does not contain bacteria that the amoeba eats, so the organism attacks the brain cells to obtain the nutrients.


However, the immune system is not standing still as the parasite eats its way through the brain. It unleashes a massive swarm of immune cells into the affected area, causing inflammation and swelling of the brain. Unfortunately for the infected person, this battle is fought within a powerful skull that cannot expand to accommodate their swollen brain. The increase in skull pressure disrupts the brain’s connection to the spinal cord, which harms communication with other parts of the body such as the respiratory system.


A stealthy and fast killer

Symptoms can appear as early as 2 days, or as late as 2 weeks after N. fowleri is inhaled. The first symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a change in the sense of smell or taste (due to the damage to the olfactory nerves mentioned above). The infection progresses rapidly through the central nervous system, resulting in neck stiffness, confusion, fatigue, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. Patients usually succumb to the infection within five to seven days after symptoms appear.

There are many reasons why N. fowleri is so deadly. First, the presence of the parasite leads to rapid and irreparable destruction of critical brain tissue. Second, the initial symptoms can easily be confused with a less serious disease, which costs precious time to treat. Third, there is no practice or technique of diagnosis for these species amoeba, and there is a chance of mistreated for viral or bacterial meningitis.

Finally, there are no proven drugs with proven effectiveness against ameba, although miltefosine holds promise. Compounding the problem is the fact that most drugs have difficulty penetrating the brain, and since primary amebic encephalitis is a rare disease, little research has been done.


Therefore,  keep in mind that millions of people are exposed to N. fowleri and never get sick. Those who study this amoeba do not know why a small subset of susceptible individuals develop primary amoebic meningitis and encephalitis. They may have a genetic variation that makes them more susceptible to infection, or they may have forcefully inhaled an enormous amount of the parasite.

Precautionary Measures 

So if you are going swimming in warm freshwater lakes or streams, especially if you love to dive or go underwater, consider wearing a nose clip to help keep the amoeba parasites out of your mind. Experts also advise avoiding aggravating sediments at the bottom of these bodies of water where amoebas live.



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