Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Appears To Be Spreading Further Around The US

A rare brain-eating amoeba appears to be spreading further across the US, infecting people in states where it is not normally found.

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba – a single-celled, creeping organism – that lives alongside other species in freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs. Naegleria. However, it differs from the other harmless species in that it will devour your brain if given the chance.

Fowleri is the only species of naegleria that can infect humans, usually at higher temperatures where it thrives, in shallow bodies of water. Infections (though incredibly rare) are typically picked up when people put their heads under water, with the amoeba traveling through the nose and into the brain, where it causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a disease that is “almost always fatal” . at 97 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Once in the brain, it begins to destroy brain tissue and causes similar symptoms — such as headache, fever, stiff neck, and confusion — to bacterial meningitis. Lack of attention to the environment, seizures and coma also occur in patients, and the disease usually causes death within five days of the onset of symptoms. Of the 154 people known to have been infected by the amoeba since 1962, only four have survived.

Fortunately, infections are incredibly rare, with only 31 infections reported in the past decade. However, the areas where the amoeba has been found (and infected humans) have expanded further across the US as temperatures rise.

One study, which looked at recorded cases of PAM and temperature information for the area where the infection was contracted, compared that temperature to historical data for the same area 20 years earlier.

“We observed an increase in air temperatures in the 2 weeks prior to exposure compared to historical averages over 20 years,” the team wrote in the report, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“The post-2010 increase in the number of cases in the Midwest region and the increase in maximum and median latitudes of exposures to PAM cases suggest a northward expansion of N. fowleri exposures associated with lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, streams and outdoor water sites in the United States. States.”

Official numbers for 2022 have not yet been released by the CDC, but as Insider notes, cases appear to be creeping further north, with a fatal case picked up in an Iowa lake for the first time. The same was true in Nebraska, where a child died of the disease, which tends to infect children 14 or younger, possibly due to increased exposure to the amoeba from playing in the water.

“Our regions are getting warmer,” said Dr. Lindsey Huse, Douglas County health director, at a news conference following the death of a child in Nebraska.

“As things warm up, the water warms up and the water level goes down due to drought, you see this organism being a lot happier and growing more typically in those situations.”

As the climate crisis continues, the disease will creep further north.

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