How will the cerebral-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri kill you?

Naegleria fowleri is a unicellular organism occurring mainly in warm fresh water and has the potential to cause disease, which in the vast majority of cases is fatal.

Infection you Naegleria fowleri Amoebic causes are known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and have a mortality of more than 97 percent.

Fortunately, cases of the disease are extremely rare in the United States and other parts of the world where amoeba occurs. But only four of the 154 known infected people in the United States survived between 1962 and 2021, said Julia Haston, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. week of news.

How does Naegleria fowleri kill people?

N. fowleri infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose, which usually occurs when people swim or dive in warm freshwater waters such as lakes and rivers.

“It travels along the olfactory nerve to the brain, which is the nerve that connects the nose and the brain that controls our sense of smell,” Haston said. “Once the amoeba enters the brain, it begins to destroy brain tissue and causes a devastating infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which is usually fatal.”

The carnivorous amoeba of Naegleria fowleri
Stock Photo: 3D rendering of the cerebral-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri. This amoeba can cause an infection known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which has a mortality of more than 97 percent.

“Amoeba … destroys brain tissue by releasing toxic molecules,” she said. “The immune system tries to fight infection by sending immune cells and fluids to the brain.” The combination of toxic molecules and the immune response causes brain swelling and death. “

Infections caused by N. fowleri it progresses very quickly and people usually die within a few days of getting sick.

“Symptoms and N. fowleri The infections are similar to bacterial meningitis, so sometimes it is initially undiagnosed, “said Haston. “There is no cure for death; However, treatment options are available. “

The fact that N. FowlerI can feed on the brain tissue in the human body, which has led to what is called an amoeba “brain-eating.”

The human brain
Image: 3D rendering of the human brain. Naegleria fowleri infection can cause devastating damage to the human brain.

Naegleria fowleri is a normally wild amoeba that feeds on bacteria and thrives in a warm natural environment, ”said Dr. Bobbi Pritt, Director of the Laboratory of Clinical Parasitology at the Mayo Clinic week of news. “Unfortunately, it can also feed on brain tissue and is perfectly suited for survival and reproduction at human body temperatures.”

“People are infected N. fowleri They die when parts of the brain that control vital functions such as respiration are destroyed. The damage is caused by amoebae feeding on brain tissue, as well as brain swelling associated with infection. When the brain swells, it is pushed through small holes, such as the foramen magnum (opening of the skull into the spinal canal), causing the tissue to die.

Why is the mortality rate from Naegleria fowleri infection so high?

Mortality for N. fowleri The infection is very high because amoebas multiply in the human body so quickly and thus effectively destroy brain tissue.

“An infected person does not have a specific pre-existing defense against amoebae, so he cannot control the infection on his own,” Pritt said. “In the rare cases where people survived, it was because the infection was diagnosed early, before there was major damage, and they were treated very aggressively.”

“Those who have survived in the United States have been treated with several amoebic killing drugs and therapeutic hypothermia (by cooling the body temperature below normal) to reduce brain swelling.”

What are the symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection?

The first symptoms of PAM, which appear between one and nine days after infection, include stiff neck, confusion, lack of awareness of the environment, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.

Once symptoms appear, the disease progresses rapidly and is usually fatal between 1 and 12 days after onset.

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