Presence of brain eating amoeba in tap water is not likely. However, if the water flowing through is untreated, the amoeba can inhabit the tap water. The brain eating amoeba is a naturally occurring parasite that is often found in soil and in areas with warm fresh water bodies. Regardless, the amoeba can strive in untreated swimming pools and public/private water tanks and pipes as well as in runoff water from power plants. Most cases of Naegleria fowleri infections are associated with warm fresh water sources. Nonetheless, several people have died due to Naegleria fowleri presence in tap water.(2) (3)
Can You Get Brain Eating Amoeba From Tap Water?
Deaths associated with brain eating amoeba from tap water are often as a result of poor cleaning procedure of neti pots. A neti pot is an instrument used to clear out sinuses and nasal cavity. A 69-year old woman in Seattle died from the brain eating amoeba a month after being admitted at the Swedish Medical Centre. On operation, it was discovered that she had the deadly amoeba in her brain eating away and damaging her brain tissue. It is suspected that the amoeba got into her brain when she injected the amoeba into her nasal cavity using her neti pot. The amoeba must have gotten to the olfactory nerve, where the amoeba then traveled up her brain.
The most logic reason behind neti pots leading to brain eating amoeba infection is if they have been cleaned using tap water. This is contrary to the recommended cleaning procedure of using either saline or sterile water.(1)
What Are Amoebas?
Amoebas are single-celled natural living organisms that are adapted to habitats with warm soil and water. Some of these amoebas have no lethal effect on human beings, but others, such as the Naegleria fowleri have proven to be fatal to humans. Other types of amoebas which can cause infections in human being are the Balamuthia mandrillaris and Acanthamoeba spp, which act more slowly compared to the Naegleria fowleri. Naegleria fowleri amoeba causes a severe brain infection known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).(3)
Symptoms Of Naegleria Fowleri Amoeba Infection
Once the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is in your brain, it takes roughly 5 days for symptoms to show. Some of the early symptoms you will experience are; a severe headache, nausea or vomiting and fever. After a while, you may develop symptoms such as stiff neck, loss of balance, loss of sense of smell and taste, confusion, hallucinations, seizures and coma, which may eventually lead to death. On average, once you exhibit symptoms of the brain eating amoeba infection, death may occur within a week or two at most.(3)
How Can You Protect Yourself From The Brain Eating Amoeba?
There are a number of things you should not put up your nose and now, tap water is among the list. This is because tap water may contain a number of harmful microorganisms e.g. Naegleria fowleri amoeba. While the amoeba can be dangerous if it gets into your brain, swallowing contaminated has no adverse effect on your health. So, the best way to protect yourself from brain eating amoeba from tap water is by ensuring that the water does not get up your nose in any possible way. In addition to that, if you have a neti pot, please do not use tap water to clean them. The amoeba can in one way or the other get into your sinus cleaning device and next time you use it, help the deadly brain eating amoeba get up into your brain.
Fatalities related to brain eating amoeba from tap water are usually as a result of either putting your head underwater, rinsing sinuses and nose cleansing with tap water contaminated with the amoeba. So, the best way to reduces or avoid such fatalities is by preventing suspected amoeba contaminated water from getting into your nose, where the amoeba can easily get to the olfactory nerve and into your brain.