Naegleria infection is an infectious disease of brain cells that may cause sudden death. It causes inflammation of the brain tissues that may destroy them. It enters through the nose and enters the brain through olfactory nerves. Its symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, loss of balance, seizures, hallucinations, and some mental symptoms like mental confusion and depression. It has a tendency to progress rapidly to death. It cannot be reversed.

Advertisement

Can Naegleria Infection Go Away On Its Own?

Naegleria is an amoeba that is found in the freshwater of warm temperature and soil. It is a thermophilic organism (heat-loving). Its only one species named Naegleria fowleri causes infection in humans. It is also known as brain-eating amoeba. Its growth occurs in higher temperatures that may range up to 115-degree Fahrenheit or 46 degree Celsius. It survives in lakes, ponds or river. When the temperature increases, it can survive for a short period of time. When the temperature of the lakes drops down, it cannot survive. (2)

Not all the people who are exposed to Naegleria fowleri, catch the infection. Its mode of infection is only one i.e. through the nasal cavity. It enters the human body through the nose. It travels to the brain where it causes inflammation and destruction of the brain tissue. (1)

Advertisement

Naegleria infection cannot be caused by consuming contaminated water. In rare cases, it may happen when contaminated water enters nose accidently. It happens when improperly or non-chlorinated water gets into the nose. For instance, people dip their head into contaminated water due to religious practices and utilize nasal irrigation with contaminated water for any treatment. (1)

Naegleria fowleri leads to the infection of brain tissue. It is called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Its initial symptoms are similar to bacterial infection of the brain like meningitis. Its initial symptoms may start after 5 days of infection that may range from 1 to 9 days. Its initial symptoms involve fever, headache, nausea, or vomiting. Later symptoms include confusion, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, lack of attention to surroundings and people, seizures, loss of balance, and hallucinations. The disease progresses at a rapid speed that causes death within one week. (2)

Advertisement

Naegleria infection is a fatal disease that causes death. It can be treated but its fatality rate increases over 97%. Only 4 out of 143 people have survived from Naegleria infection in 1962 to 2017. (2)

Naegleria infection does not go on its own. It can neither be reversed nor cured. Only a few cases are cured if the infection is detected at an early age and treatment is provided. (1)

Naegleria infection is diagnosed by cerebrospinal fluid testing and in some cases MRI or CT scan. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is the fluid that is a protective layer around the brain and spinal cord. It is collected by pricking a needle in between two vertebrae in the lower side of the back (lumbar region). This process is called lumbar puncture. This process provides information about CSF pressure, blood cell levels and proteins that can indicate towards PAM. The CSF is studied under a microscope that can find out the infective amoeba in the CSF sample. In some cases, an MRI scan or CT scan is performed to detect the extent of the disease. (3)

The one promising way to treat Naegleria infection is antifungal medicines named amphotericin B. It is injected intravenously near the spinal cord. Another new drug is introduced in the market namely miltefosine. It appears to be effective for the treatment of Naegleria infection.

Other medicines for naegleria infection involve fluconazole, azithromycin (antibiotic) and rifampin (antibiotic). It interferes with the action of other medicines for the treatment of the infection. (3)

Conclusion

Naegleria infection occurs when contaminated water is forced into the nose. It reaches the brain through the olfactory nerve and infects the brain tissues. It is a fatal disease that does not go on its own. 

References:  

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

,

Last Modified On: May 31, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

Advertisement

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

We'll help you live each day to the healthiest