Brain Eating Amoeba
August 24, 2012
There could be a deadly killer in your home – the kitchen tap.
Last year in Louisiana, two people died from a single-celled organism that thrives in warm, freshwater after using tap water for flushing their sinuses.
The amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri, can cause primary amoebic meningoecephalitis (PAM), which is fatal in 99 per cent of cases.
Deadly infection: The amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri, can cause primary amoebic meningoecephalitis (PAM), which is fatal in 99 per cent of cases
The nose knows: In 2011, two people in Louisiana who used tap water in neti pots to flush out their sinuses caught the deadly infection
Both victims, a 51-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man, had used tap water in neti pots to flush out their sinuses and died days later. They lived in separate areas of the state.
Neti pots are generally safe for use for clearing out excess mucus in the nasal cavity, but when amoebas are present, the infection has a frighteningly fatal rate.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the amoeba enters the brain through the nasal passage, especially when people go swimming in warm freshwater lakes and ponds.
In a report published by Dr Jonathan Yoder, who works at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a division of the CDC, concluded that in both cases, the victims had only come in contact with the amoeba from tap water.
He and a group of researchers tested the water from both houses. Their results were published in Clinical Infectious Diseases on August 23.
Dr Yoder and the other authors found the amoeba in the kitchen spigot, shower, bathtub, and bathroom sink in the woman’s home.
Path of infection: N. fowleri can only enter the body through the nasal passage or broken skin, not through drinking water
Growth process: The single-celled amoeba is also called a brain-eating amoeba; later symptoms can include hallucinations and seizures
They found Naegleria fowleri in a tankless water heater in the home of the 28-year-old man.
The authors noted that the municipal water sources were not contaminated in either case. The residents lived in different parts of the state.
The CDC says that one cannot contract the organism simply through drinking water, and urges those using nasal irrigation systems to either use distilled or bottled water, or boil their tap water for at least a minute to ensure the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is killed.
The centre also notes that there have been few infections in the U.S. throughout the past decades.
Preventative measures: The CDC recommends that those near warm, fresh water avoid swimming in it, or holding your nose when going underwater
From 2002 to 2011, there were 32 infections reported. Included in those statistics are the two people from Louisiana who used neti pots to flush out their noses.
Initial symptoms begin five days after infection, but could take as long as seven, and include headache, fever, nausea, and even vomiting.
In the later phases when the amoeba reaches the brain tissue, those suffering from the infection may lose balance, hallucinate, and experience seizures, and in 99 per cent of cases, die.
The CDC notes that only one person out of 123 infected has survived.
It reminds those who will be swimming in warm, fresh water to use nasal plugs, hold one’s nose shut, or avoid going under water altogether, though infection from N. fowleri is extremely rare.