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Business News/ News / World/  Brain-eating amoeba causes 2nd death in 3 months: How does it infect and what are the symptoms?
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Brain-eating amoeba causes 2nd death in 3 months: How does it infect and what are the symptoms?

Naegleria fowleri is also a single-celled organism and hence not visible to naked eye
  • It thrives in warm freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, hot springs as well as soil
  • Between 1983 and 2010, Texan health authorities have attributed 28 deaths to the amoeba Naegleria fowleri - Representative image (REUTERS)Premium
    Between 1983 and 2010, Texan health authorities have attributed 28 deaths to the amoeba Naegleria fowleri - Representative image (REUTERS)

    Naegleria fowleri, popularly known as brain-eating amoeba, has caused the second death in just 3 months' time. A Florida-based man contracted the infection while trying to clean his nose with tap water. In December, another man from South Korea died due to the disease, and it is believed that he got infected during his trip to Thailand. Here is a look at how the amoeba infects, its symptoms and other relevant details.

    What is Naegleria fowleri, i.e. brain-eating amoeba?

    Like other amoebas, Naegleria fowleri is also a single-celled organism. It thrives in warm freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, hot springs as well as soil.

    Owing to the fact that it is not visible to the naked eye, and only visible under a microscope, it is very difficult to locate. Hence when the disease starts spreading in a particular area, authorities instruct the residents to boil the water first and then use it.

    How does it infect?

    As per experts, the amoeba enters the body through the nose and then travels deep into the brain, and in the process it damages several brain tissues eventually leading to death in most cases. The infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.

    What are the symptoms?

    Initially, the infected person starts experiencing headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, disorientation, seizures and a stiff neck.

    In case the condition deteriorates, it could lead to altered mental status, hallucinations, and even coma.

    How fatal is it?

    The infection is extremely fatal. About 97% who have contracted it died within days. Only four patients out of 154 survived the infection in the US between 1962 – 2021. As per media reports, the Floridian man's case was the first case in the US to happen during a winter month.

    Following his death, the authorities have asked residents not to use tap water before boiling it.

    "Infection with Naegleria fowleri is EXTREMELY RARE and can only happen when water contaminated with amoebae enters the body through the nose," The Florida Department of Health tweeted on Friday.

    It won’t infect the person by drinking contaminated water, added the department. It only occurs when contaminated water enters the nose.

    Are there any vaccines against it?

    There is currently no vaccine but the disease can be treated with proper drug combinations, such as amphotericin B, azithromycin, fluconazole, rifampin, miltefosine, and dexamethasone, which were used in cases of patients who survived the infection.

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    Published: 04 Mar 2023, 03:08 PM IST
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