Naegleria infection is a rare infectious disease of the brain caused by an amoeba. It is named after the causative amoeba Naegleria which is found in freshwater lakes, rivers, hot springs and swimming pool. This amoeba does not cause infection when it comes in contact with skin. It causes infection in the brain when it enters through the nose. It causes severe inflammation in the brain tissue leading to its damage resulting in death within a few weeks. Its symptoms include fever, headache, stiffness in the neck, imbalance, confusion and many others.

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Is Naegleria Infection A Serious Condition?

Naegleria infection is a rare infection caused by an amoeba that lives in warm freshwater and soil. Naegleria fowleri is the causative amoeba out of 20 species of Naegleria that causes infection in humans. It lives in warm unchlorinated water, especially in freshwater sources like river, ponds, lakes, hot springs and swimming pools. It cannot cause infection directly through the skin, its infection happens when the infective amoeba enters the brain through the nose. It causes inflammation and damage to the brain tissues. (1)

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Naegleria fowleri can live in pipes, hot water heaters, and public drinking water. (3) But this infection does not spread by drinking contaminated water. This amoeba cannot survive in seawater. It cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Many people who came in contact with this amoeba do not catch the infection. It cannot survive in the chlorinated water, cleaned or treated water of the swimming pool. Young adults and children are more likely to develop an infection. (1)

The infectious amoeba enters in the body only through the nose mainly during swimming in warm freshwater sources. It can also get into the nose through contaminated water or soil. It enters through the nose and passes to the brain through the nerves that perceive the sensation of smell. (2) Initially, it causes a disease of the brain called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. It then leads to inflammation of the brain tissues. It also causes the destruction of the brain tissues. (4)

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The symptoms of this infection appear in 2 to 15 days of exposure to the infection. These symptoms include fever, change in smell or taste of the food, sudden pain in the head, stiffness in the neck, light sensitivity, vomiting, nausea, loss of balance, excess sleepiness, seizures, and mental illness like confusion, hallucination, etc. (4)

The symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection progress at a very fast speed. It causes extensive damage to brain tissues. It leads to death within a week of the symptoms representation. It is a fatal disease and it is a serious condition. (4)

The risk factors involve swimming in fresh water in the past two weeks, the fresh water has heat waves and children and young adults. Children and adults of young age spend more time in water and their activity level is usually high. (4)

If certain measures are followed to reduce the risk factors of Naegleria infection, then this infection can be prevented. According to the CDC, the measures that can prevent this infection are-

  • Avoiding swimming, jumping or diving in the warm fresh water
  • Keeping head raised above water while using thermal pools or warm freshwater reserves.
  • Use of nose clips while swimming or diving.
  • Cleaning and drying of wading pools before use
  • Cleaning and chlorination of swimming pools before use
  • Flushing of stagnant water before children can use them.
  • Contaminated water should not be used for nasal irrigation or nasal lavage.(3)

Conclusion

Naegleria infection is a rare infection of the brain. Its infectious agent can enter the body through the nose and it infects the brain. It is a serious condition because it leads to death within a week because it causes fatal damage to the brain.

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Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: May 31, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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