Sep
20
2007

Deadly amoeba

Life cycle of Naegleria fowleri: Image courtesy CDC.
Life cycle of Naegleria fowleri: Image courtesy CDC.
A friend sent me this story. Apparently a single cell amoeba – Naegleria fowleri – is appearing in some warm Orlando-area fresh water lakes and has caused at least three deaths.

In humans, once Naegleria fowleri is exposed to the human brain through the nasal passages, it is almost always fatal. Naegleria fowleri can cause Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, which affects the central nervous system. Symptoms exhibited by people exposed to the amoeba start out being flu like, but also can include changes to their sense of taste and smell, which are followed rapidly (within 14 days) by confusion, lack of attention, loss of balance, seizures, coma and finally death. People exposed to Naegleria fowleri are not contagious, but there is currently no successful treatment for it – almost all cases result in death.

Naegleria fowleri infections are very rare, with only 23 documented cases between 1995 and 2005. What exactly is the cause for this sudden cluster of infections is unknown. Theories suggest that a warmer than usual summer combined with lower than average rainfall resulted in increased Naegleria fowleri populations. As a result of these three cases, warnings about the amoeba have been posted at 15 area parks and lakes encouraging bathers to stay out of water warmer than 80 degrees Fahrenheit and wearing nose clips when swimming.

The CDC has on line resources for healthy swimming posted on its website.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

Naegleria fowleri is everywhere except the Arctic and Antarctic regions. And last month, the amoeba killed a 7-year-old girl in Stillwater, MN.

posted on Thu, 09/02/2010 - 11:53am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Exactly why do you think these amoeba live in 80 degrees or higher temp only vs a lower temp. Please provide the facts.

posted on Sun, 08/14/2011 - 3:28pm

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