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Brain eating ameba kills an young American man

Credits: USCDC / Wikimedia

Live Science recently reported that an American man from New Jersey has died from an ameba called Naegleria fowleri, also commonly known as “the brain eating ameba“. This ameba feeds off the body’s red blood cells and nerve cells.  This ameba rarely infects humans but when it does it is very difficult to get rid of the infection. 

What is the ameba Naegleria fowleri ?

Naegleria fowleri is a rare unicellular micro-organism which lives in fresh waters like lakes, ponds and rivers and feeds off Gram-negative bacteria.  It’s concentration depends on the area’s temperature. Higher concentrations of this ameba are found when water temperatures go above 35°C. It can easily spread when transported by the wind in droplets of water.  Therefore, it can also be found in swimming pools that are not very chlorinated and sewers.

When swimmers bathe in water that contains this ameba this bacteria can enter their body through their nasal passages in their mucus until it reaches the olfactive nerve.  Next the ameba follows the nerve until it reaches the brain.  With an appetite for nerve cells, an infection by this ameba can lead to lesions and inflammations that cause primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (MEAP). The fatality rate of this infection is higher than that of Ebola.

It should be noted that drinking water contaminated by brain eating ameba will not effect you.

Fabrizio Stabile, aged 29 year old, is the 144th case in the USA since 1962.

amibe naegleria fowleri
Credits : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Wikimedia

How was this man infected by the ameba?

For the moment, it is unknown how the man came in contact with this ameba.  However scientists are studying the aquatic park, BRS Cable Park, in Texas.   Fabrizio Stabile had used the wave pool at the park. When he got home to New Jersey, he complained of having a sore head.  He then continued to develop symptoms including swelling of the brain and a fever. Naegleria fowleri got the better of the poor man and he died on the 21 September 2018.

Following his death a crowd funding campaign was set up by his friends and relatives so as to make an awareness campaign about this rare infection which could be avoided.

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