Naegleria fowleri (play /nəˈɡlɪəriə/; also known as “the brain-eating amoeba“) is a free-living excavate form of protist typically found in warm bodies of fresh water, such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and hot springs. It is also found in soil, near warm water discharges of industrial plants, and minimally chlorinated swimming pools (there is no evidence of this organism living in ocean water) in an amoeboid or temporary flagellate stage. It belongs to a group called the Percolozoa or Heterolobosea. Although not a true amoeba, the organism is often referred to as an amoeba for convenience.
N. fowleri can invade and attack the human nervous system. Although this occurs rarely, such an infection nearly always results in the death of the victim.
The waterborne parasite known as the “brain-eating amoeba” is as bad as it sounds and it has caused the deaths of at least two young people this month. The rare but extremely deadly parasite that causes amoebic meningoencephalitis, an infection that attacks the brain and spine, can be found in stagnant freshwater during hot weather. The parasite killed a 9-year-old boy in Virginia earlier this month and a 16-year-old girl in Florida this week, ABC reports.
The parasite is so rare that some years pass without a single infection, although it killed six people in the US during the hot summer of 2007. Symptoms of infection include headaches, vomiting, and neck stiffness. Experts say using nose clips when swimming in freshwater can reduce the risk of infection. “Prevention is the only thing you have,” says the Texas father who founded the Kyle Lewis Amoeba Awareness Foundation to raise public awareness of the parasite after his 7-year-old son died last year. “As a father who lost a child, I’m asking, why didn’t I know about this?”
I have never heard of this and I’m well read. I have to agree with the grieving father: “why didn’t I know about this?” What do you think about the deadly amoeba?