Run for Your Lives! The Brain Eating Zombie Amoeba’s Are Coming

From MSNBC:

Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it’s killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.


The amoeba is Naegleria fowleri and was discovered in …Australia in the 1990’s (given that Australia is the come to giant man-eating crocs, great whites, killer jellyfish, carnivorous kangaroos – unfortunately extinct – and more venomous spiders and snakes than you can shake a stick at, afarensis wonders how this is fair?):

Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose — say, by doing a somersault in chest-deep water — the amoeba can latch onto the olfactory nerve.
The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up into the brain, where it continues the damage, “basically feeding on the brain cells,” Beach said.
People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers. In the later stages, they’ll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes, he said.
Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have stopped the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said.

I think I’ll stay out of the water from now on…

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10 Responses

  1. Once infected, most people have little chance of survival . . .

    But last year Foreman had a Naegleria infection and House had no trouble curing it (once he knew what it was). What does he know that other doctors don’t?
    (Answer: the screenwriters)

  2. Once infected, most people have little chance of survival . . .

    But last year Foreman had a Naegleria infection and House had no trouble curing it (once he knew what it was). What does he know that other doctors don’t?
    (Answer: the screenwriters)

  3. Global Warming Risk?
    According to the CDC Fact Sheet on Naegleria Infection:

    Infection with Naegleria is very rare. However, when it does occur, infection is most common during the dry, summer months, when the air temperature is hot, the water is warm, and water levels are low. The number of infections increase (sic) during years characterized by heat waves.

    Does this mean the outbreak will increase with global warming?
    Other interesting site(s) I found:
    Naegleria

    Treatment of Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM)
    Of the 300 or so cases of this disease world-wide, only seven or so have been survived (Jain et al, 2002). The drug of choice has been amphotericin B (Anderson & Jamieson, 1972;Seidel et al, 1982;Jain et al, 2002 ) it is usually given intravenously at 1mg/kg/day (see Shenoy et al, 2002). In the cases where patients have survived early diagnosis has been crucial. Symptoms are generally like bacterial meningitis but with no bacteria in the cerebrospinal fluid, the presence of amoebae can however be detected by observation of the CSF under a microscope. The incubation period is usually between 3 and 8 days and the patient usually dies 7-10 days after infection (Butt, 1966; Anderson & Jamieson, 1972; Barnett et al, 1996).

    Free-Living Amebas: Naegleria, Acanthamoeba and Balamuthia

    In almost all cases, N fowleri enters the body by being inhaled or splashed onto the olfactory epithelium (Fig. 81-2). In some cases, however, the patients had no recent contact with fresh water, and apparently contracted the disease by inhaling cyst-laden dust.

    Naegleria gruberi Phylogenetic information
    Naegleria Silent Killer

  4. I thought, oh another one of those scare diseases like the flesh-eating bacteria thing a few years back. Those diseases are scary but they’re so rare. Then I remembered when one of my step-daughters almst died of the flesh-eating bacteria.
    I think I’ll stay out of lakes.

  5. I was under the impression that infections were usualy from breating in water with flagellated reproductive swarmers. Sounds like infection from spores and amebae from the bottom is also possibile. In any case, It might be a good idea to wear a noseclip when swimming in lake waters.

  6. Does this mean the outbreak will increase with global warming?

    Australia is supposed to become wetter with warming (La Niña).

  7. The more I read this stuff, the more I love temperate, disease-free England.
    Currently suffering outbreaks of B2B H5N1, bluetongue and foot and mouth on farms, C. difficile and Pseudomonas, with MRSA bubblin’ under in hospitals. No brain eating amoeba, though. We use cheap booze to do that.

  8. given that Australia is the come to giant man-eating crocs, great whites, killer jellyfish, carnivorous kangaroos – unfortunately extinct – and more venomous spiders and snakes than you can shake a stick at, afarensis wonders how this is fair?

    You forgot to mention the ants. :-)

  9. Nothing about amoebas, specifically, but….
    Don’t forget the lethal blue-ringed octopus (small, cute, lethal) as well as the amusing fact that Australia has 140 species of land snake, 100 of which are poisonous, as well as the sea snakes.
    Also I had the impression that drought is likely to worsen with global warming in Australia, just as in the US. It’s certainly bad now.

  10. Most global warming models predict Australia will get drier over all but there will be big regional differences.
    The south east – where about 80% of our population live – will get drier. The north and north west will get wetter.

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