Brain-eating Amoeba Turns Swimming Spot into a Graveyard in Kerala


Polluted water is the main culprit behind the brain-eating amoeba infection that killed two toddlers in a month in Kerala. Therefore, it is better to avoid swimming in lakes and other water bodies, doctors warn. Amoebic encephalitis is a rare but deadly infection of the central nervous system caused by free-living amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, also known as brain-eating amoeba, found in fresh water, lakes and rivers.1 Reliable source
brain-eating amoeba

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).

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Contaminated water kills two

A week earlier, amoebic encephalitis infection claimed the life of Dakshina, a 13-year-old girl from Kannur. Beginnings of May, A five-year-old girl also from Kannur succumbed to the infection. Another 12 year old boy from Kozhikode The disease has been suspected after she showed symptoms of amoebic infection. While two cases occurred within days of swimming in a lake, in Dakshina’s case it reportedly took several months to manifest.

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What is amoebic encephalitis?

“Amebic encephalitis, caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, usually begins between one and nine days after exposure to contaminated water. This infection enters through the nasal cavity and progresses rapidly, and can become fatal in a matter of days,” he said. Dr. Arjun Srivatsa, Director and Head of Department, Institute of Neurosciences, Sakra World Hospital.

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Symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection

The most common symptoms are severe headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, confusion, loss of balance, seizures, hallucinations, sensitivity to light, and coma. There are two types of amebic encephalitis: primary meningoencephalitis (MAP) (2 Reliable source
Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)

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) and granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE) (3 Reliable source
Granulomatous amebic encephalitis (GAE)

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). The initial symptoms of PAM are indistinguishable from bacterial meningitis, whereas the symptoms of GAE may mimic a brain abscess, encephalitis, or meningitis.

Amoebic encephalitis: treatment and management

Antimicrobial therapy is the mainstay of treatment, but the mortality rate is over 90 per cent. Dr John Paul, consultant in tropical medicine and infectious diseases at SPARSH Hospital in Bengaluru, urged parents to “take precautions before allowing children to enter any water body.”

“MAP rapidly affects the central nervous system and the mortality rate is 90 percent. This usually occurs in healthy children and young adults who would have been exposed to any body of water that has the presence of the amoeba Naegleria fowleri. This amoeba is present in warm and cool water and soil,” said Dr. John.

Dr. John explained that a week after contracting the infection, symptoms progress causing stiff neck, seizures, confusion, hallucinations and personality changes, photophobia and loss of balance.If not detected in the early stages, the patient’s symptoms progress to coma, severe brain swelling, and death.,” he said.

Experts advised avoiding swimming, diving or submersion, especially for immunocompromised people, to minimise the risk of contracting amoebic encephalitis from contaminated water. “If swimming is necessary, the use of nose clips may provide some protection against the entry of Naegleria fowleri through the nasal passages,” said Dr Arjun.

References:

  1. Brain-eating amoeba (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/24485-brain-eating-amoeba)
  2. Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) – (https://www.chop.edu/condiciones-y-enfermedades/meningoencephalitis-amebica-primaria-pam)
  3. Granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAS) – (https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/acanthamoeba/amebic-encephalitis.html)
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