Naegleria fowleri, often referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba," is a rare but highly deadly microorganism that has caused concern in various parts of the world, including India. This amoeba thrives in warm freshwater environments and can lead to a fatal infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Here’s everything you need to know about Naegleria fowleri, its presence in India, and how to protect yourself. Brain Parasite Symptoms: What Is Neurocysticercosis? What Causes Worms in the Brain? Diagnosis, Causes, Prevention and Treatment.

What is Naegleria Fowleri?

Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled, free-living amoeba that is typically found in warm freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, hot springs, and poorly maintained swimming pools. It is known for its ability to infect humans by entering the body through the nasal passages and traveling to the brain, where it causes severe and often fatal damage.

How Does Infection Occur?

Infection by Naegleria fowleri occurs when contaminated water enters the nose, usually while swimming or diving in warm freshwater. The amoeba then migrates to the brain along the olfactory nerve, leading to the onset of PAM.

Key Points of Entry:

  • Swimming or diving in warm freshwater bodies
  • Using contaminated tap water for nasal irrigation (e.g., neti pots)
  • Submerging the head in hot springs or inadequately chlorinated pools

Symptoms of Infection

The symptoms of PAM typically appear within 2 to 15 days after exposure and can progress rapidly. Early symptoms may include:

  • Severe headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stiff neck

As the infection progresses, symptoms can escalate to:

  • Confusion and hallucinations
  • Loss of balance
  • Seizures
  • Altered mental status
  • Coma

Due to the rapid progression and severity of symptoms, PAM is often fatal, with a mortality rate of over 97%.

Naegleria Fowleri in India

While Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, cases have been reported in various parts of the world, including India. The presence of this amoeba in warm freshwater bodies in India, especially during the hot summer months, raises public health concerns.

Notable Cases in India

Sporadic cases have been reported in states with warm climates and abundant freshwater bodies. Increased awareness and reporting have led to better identification of this deadly infection. 'Brain-Eating Amoeba' kills one in Kerala- minor girl dies of rare brain infection PAM in Kozhikode.

Prevention and Safety Measures

Preventing Naegleria fowleri infection primarily involves avoiding activities that put you at risk of exposure to contaminated water. Here are some key safety measures:

1. Avoid Freshwater Activities in Warm Weather:

Refrain from swimming or diving in warm freshwater bodies, especially during high-temperature periods.

2. Use Properly Treated Water:

Ensure that swimming pools and hot tubs are adequately chlorinated and maintained.

3. Practice Safe Nasal Hygiene:

Use only sterile or distilled water for nasal irrigation.

Avoid submerging your head in potentially contaminated water.

4. Keep Your Head Above Water:

When swimming in natural freshwater bodies, try to keep your head above water to minimize the risk of water entering your nose.

What to Do if You Suspect an Infection

If you have recently been exposed to warm freshwater and experience any of the symptoms associated with PAM, seek medical attention immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for improving the chances of survival.

Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba, is a rare but serious threat that can cause fatal brain infections. Understanding the risks and taking appropriate preventive measures are essential for staying safe. By being aware of how infections occur and following safety guidelines, you can enjoy water-related activities while minimizing the risk of encountering this deadly microorganism.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on May 26, 2024 11:20 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website