What is Naegleria fowleri?

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What is Naegleria fowleri? Blog Image


A 15-year-old boy in Kerala recently died due to a rare infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, or “brain-eating amoeba”.

About Naegleria fowleri:


  • It is an amoeba (single-celled living organism) that lives in soil and warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs. 
  • It is commonly called the “brain-eating amoeba”.
  • Naegleria fowleri is a heat-loving (thermophilic) organism, meaning it thrives in heat and likes warm water. It grows best at high temperatures up to 115°F (46°C) and can survive for short periods at even higher temperatures.
  • How does it infect people?
    • It infects people when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose. 
    • This typically happens when people go swimming, diving or when they put their heads under fresh water, like in lakes and rivers. 
    • The amoeba then travels up the nose to the brain, where it destroys the brain tissue and causes a devastating infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
    • PAM is a very serious infection of the central nervous system that’s almost always fatal. The fatality rate is higher than 97% even with treatment.
  • Cause of death: 
    • The infection destroys brain tissue, causing brain swelling and death.
    • Naegleria fowleri infections may also happen when people use contaminated tap water to cleanse their noses during religious practices or rinse their sinuses (sending water up the nose).
    • There is no evidence that Naegleria fowleri can spread through water vapor or aerosol droplets (such as shower mist or vapor from a humidifier).
    • People cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water.
    • Naegleria fowleri infection does not spread from person to person, nor does it manifest symptoms when contracted in other forms.
  • Treatment
    • The US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends treatment with a combination of drugs, often including amphotericin B, azithromycin, fluconazole, rifampin, miltefosine, and dexamethasone. 
    • These drugs have been used to treat patients who survived.


Q1) What is an Amoeba?

An amoeba, sometimes written as "ameba", is a term generally used to describe a single celled eukaryotic organism that has no definite shape and that moves by means of pseudopodia. Pseudopodia or pseudopods are temporary projections of the cell and the word literally means "false feet". The cell uses the pseudopodia as a means of locomotion.

Source: Kerala boy dies due to brain-eating amoeba: What’s it all about and how can it infect you?