Brain-eating amoeba also called Naegleria Fowleri is an amoeba- a single-celled living organism- that causes infection in the brain. The brain-eating amoeba is found commonly in warm freshwater bodies.
According to a Korean Times report, recently a South Korean man died from an infection caused by Naegleria Fowleri. This was the first confirmed case of Naegleria Fowleri in the country.
The man had returned from Thailand. The report said that the man was in his 50s and had resided in Thailand for four months before returning to Korea on 10 December.
The man started to show the symptoms of meningitis, which are headaches, vomiting, fever, slurred speech and fever and stiffness in the neck, the day he arrived. After 11 days after his arrival, he died on December 21.
The cause of his death was revealed in the post-mortem reports. The reports revealed that the man’s body contained genes that were 99.6 identical to a meningitis patient.
What is a brain-eating amoeba?
- Naegleria Fowleri is an amoeba that causes infection in the brain.
- It is found in warm freshwaters like lakes, rivers and springs and soil.
- The disease caused by Naegleria Fowleri is fatal and is referred to as ‘primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The infection spread rapidly and causes death within 5 days.
How does it infect?
The Korean times said that the KDCA (Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency) has not yet revealed the method of transmission.
The KDCA has focused on the source which can cause the infection are swimming or coming in contact with contaminated water, in any way, where it can enter the body through the nose and reach the brain. It also occurs when people clean their noses with contaminated water.
Symptoms of Naegleria Fowleri
The previous research is done on the data of the Naegleria Fowleri patients exhibiting two stages of symptoms:
- 1st Stage- The patient experiences frontal headaches (severe), fever, nausea and also vomiting. These can be seen within 5 days after the infection or between 1-12 days
- 2nd Stage- Experiencing stiff neck, altered mental status- change in mental functions which also includes hallucination.
In severe cases, the patient can also fall into a coma.
The disease is difficult to detect in its early stage. Due to its rapid spreading process, the disease is usually discovered after the patient is dead.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that there is no evidence of human-to-human transfer of the infection. It is not contagious and will not spread through water vapours, aerosol and also not airborne.
In the cases where patients survived the infection, the disease was treated with proper drug combinations such as amphotericin B, azithromycin, fluconazole, rifampin, miltefosine, and dexamethasone. Right now, there is no vaccination for this infection/ disease.
Where Naegleria Fowleri is found?
It is found all over the world in warm fresh water and soil and is widespread during the warm months of July, August and September.
These amoebae prosper in warm environments and water. It grows best at a temperature of 46o Celcius and can survive even higher temperatures. According to the scientists the water temperature of the bodied related to the PAM was higher than 26o Celcius.
According to the report in Indian Express, the Naegleria Fowleri has been found in 16 countries, and also on all the continents.
So far in India, only 16 cases were reported of PAM and only 4 survived the infection, among the 4, 3 had no exposure to any water bodies. In 2018, 381 cases were reported of Naegleria Fowleri were in the world, of which ⅔ cases were from the U.S.