Amoebic Infection: What to Know

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An Ohio teen who recently visited the U.S. National Whitewater Center has died from an Amoebic infection. Here is what to know about the infection:

Naegleria fowleri
According to the CDC, Naegleria fowleri is commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba.” It can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

Causes
The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes and rivers. Naegleria fowleri usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain. The CDC says that in rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources enters the nose. This could include inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water.

You cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria.

Symptoms
Symptoms start 1-9 days after swimming or other nasal exposure to Naegleria-containing water. Signs and symptoms of the infection include severe frontal headache, fever, vomiting, stiff neck, and can lead to hallucinations and coma. The infection is usually fatal.

Location
Naegleria fowleri is a heat-loving amoeba, and is naturally found in warm freshwater environments such as lakes and rivers. It is commonly present in many southern tier lakes in the U.S. during the summer, but infections have also recently occurred in northern states. Naegleria is not found in salt water, like the ocean.

Treatment
The CDC says several drugs are effective against Naegleria fowleri in the laboratory. However, their effectiveness is unclear since almost all infections have been fatal, even when people were treated with similar drug combinations. Recently, two people with Naegleria infection survived after being treated with a new drug called miltefosine that was given along with other drugs and aggressive management of brain swelling.

For more information on the amoeba and infection, click here.