Naegleria Fowleri

There has been a few cases of Naegleria Fowleri within the last year in other states such as Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana so it is always best to be safe then sorry to understand what it is. This little organism can be found in lakes and rivers so it can quite possibly be in a lake near you.

Brain eating amoeba is a single celled organism whose scientific name is Naegleria Fowleri. It kills people by feeding on their brain cells. It was first discovered in 1965. These organisms are usually found in warm fresh water bodies such as ponds, rivers, lakes, poorly treated swimming pools and hot springs. Drinking contaminated water has not shown to lead to infection because the amoeba usually needs to go up the nose attaching itself to the soft tissue first then moving into the brain. The occurrence of the infection is often very rare. Since its discovery, only one hundred and forty four cases have so far been reported. In the United States there only has been thirty six cases reported in the past ten years. Despite its rare occurrence, it has a high fatality rate of about ninety five percent.


Symptoms start to surface within the first seven days of infection. The symptoms include nausea, fever, stiff neck and vomiting. The Secondary symptoms include, hallucination, altered mental state, seizures, loss of balance and coma. Naegleria Fowleri is often confused with bacterial meningitis since the symptoms are more like the same. The infected person dies within the first two weeks of infection, however, there are isolated cases where an infected person takes longer to succumb to the infection. For example, a man in Taiwan died after having this for almost a month.

Diagnosis and treatment

It is often difficult to make a diagnosis because of the symptoms with those of bacterial meningitis. Another reason attributed to low diagnosis level is its rare occurrence. The patients and the medics don’t think Naegleria Fowleri as the cause of the diagnosis. In most cases, the infection has been discovered after a post mortem. When tissue specimen are closely monitored under a powerful microscope, the amoeba can easily be seen. The presence of Naegleria can be confirmed using a flagellation test. In the test, the organism is placed in distilled water or any other controlled environment. In laboratories, most drugs seem to be effective against it but many people have ended up dying despite the treatment. Post treatment survival rate is usually less than one percent. However, an infant in Iran was successfully treated with Rifampicin and Amphotericin. Treatment in the early course of infection can increase the chances of survival.

How to stay safe from Naegleria Fowleri (brain eating Amoeba)

Granted the high fatality rate and low rates of diagnosis, its better to remain proactive against this deadly organism. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure, it is often advisable to use  clips to hold the nose or simply shutting the nose with the palm when swimming and diving in the potentially contaminated water. It is also important to avoid digging up and stirring sediments. When swimming, keep your head above the water level.