Brain eating amoeba, scientifically known as Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that causes a fatal brain infection which can lead to death imminently. Although the infection is lethal, it is rare that individuals contract it. Naturally, the brain, or rather brain tissue, is not part of the food supply for Naegleria fowleri. It is an accidental food source, which the amoeba feeds on while inside your brain. Most people who contract the disease usually get it when they are exposed to environs with the amoeba. This can either be fresh water bodies such as lakes, ponds, hot springs and rivers, or untreated swimming pools, especially during the warm seasons.
How Do You Know If You Have A Brain Eating Amoeba?
Naegleria fowleri will get into your brain through your nasal cavity. When you’ve been swimming, deep diving or water skiing in water that contains the amoeba, the contaminated water can be forced into your nasal cavity. Once in the nose, through the olfactory nerve, the amoeba can travel up to the frontal lobe of your brain. According to studies, the reason the amoeba travels up to the brain is because it is attracted to the chemicals exuded when brain cells communicate. Other than water recreational activities, some cases of brain eating amoeba infection are linked to use of neti pots with untreated tap water and exposure to contaminated soil. You should be aware that you cannot develop the brain eating amoeba infection if you have drunk contaminated water. Also, it is not communicable, thus you cannot contract it from someone already with the infection.(1)
Symptoms Of Brain Eating Amoeba
The brain eating amoeba results in an infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). It is characterized by swelling of the brain due to the damage the amoeba does to your brain tissues. If you have the Naegleria fowleri amoeba in your brain, symptoms are likely to surface within two weeks of infection. Early symptoms of a Naegleria fowleri infection are;
As the infection rapidly progresses, an individual will experience other symptoms such as;
- Stiff neck
- Loss of smell and taste
- Loss of balance or wobbliness
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of appetite
- Blurred vision
- Drooping eyelid
The symptoms worsen very fast and if the infection is not diagnosed as soon as possible and treatment administered, death will occur within a week or two at most. It is important that once you develop early symptoms of a Naegleria fowleri amoeba infection, you seek medical attention immediately.(1)
Individuals with a brain eating amoeba can be diagnosed with a CT scan or MRI. These are types of imagery testing, which will help get a clear picture on where the amoeba has caused damage. In this case, the CT scan and MRI test will help identify areas where there is swelling of brain tissue and bleeding. A spinal tap, also known as lumbar puncture can also be done. This diagnostic testing procedure involved extracting fluid surrounding your spinal cord and brain. The fluid is then viewed under a microscope to determine presence of the amoeba. The spinal tap procedure is also useful in measuring the cerebral spinal fluid pressure and identifying inflammatory cells.(2)
Treatment Of Brain Eating Amoeba
There is no defined curative treatment for brain eating amoeba. You may find that some people will survive and others will not when treated with the same medication. Furthermore, some treatments will work during testing in the lab, but when administered to the patient, they do not survive. The trick to improving survival from brain eating amoeba can be seen as early diagnosis and aggressive treatment. Amphotericin B is the primary medication treatment for a Naegleria fowleri infection is one of the drugs that has proved successful in treating some patients with the infection. Chlorpromazine and Miltefosine can also be used. The latter has been successful in two occasions where it was administered with the patient in an induced coma. In addition to that, one’s body temperature can be lowered to inhibit the amoeba from doing further damage as the medication does it work.(2)
The best way to know if you have a brain eating amoeba is by visiting a medical facility for diagnosis after experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms. This is because the Naegleria fowleri infection has a similarity to meningitis. The fatality of a Naegleria fowleri infection is very high, so if there is any possible way you can lessen the risk of death, take it.