What Disease Eats Your Brain?
An infection caused by a deadly amoeba known as naegleria fowleri causes a disease that eats your brain. This disease is known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis or PAM. It leads to an inflammation in the brain and destroys the brain tissue; hence the term, brain-eating disease.
Naegleria fowleri is a very rare infection and extremely fatal. This amoeba is found in rivers, freshwater lakes and hot springs. It gets into the body while doing activities like swimming or other water sports. This amoeba when ingested cannot survive into the body due to various acid secretions in your stomach. It gets killed when ingested. However, it can enter the nasal passages when doing swimming or other water sports and can stay in the nasal passages. It then travels to the brain where it causes a serious inflammation that leads to a dangerous damage to the brain tissue. Death usually occurs within a week if the infection is not treated promptly.
Symptoms Of Naegleria Infection
Infection from the naegleria fowleri results in the development of a disease known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis or PAM. It leads to an inflammation in the brain and destroys the tissue of the brain. The signs and symptoms of this infection develop between two to fifteen days of getting infected by the amoeba. These may include-
- Changes in sense of smell and taste
- Neck stiffness
- Sudden headache that is severe in nature
- Photosensitivity or sensitivity to light
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
All these signs and symptoms develop very rapidly and can lead to death within a week. (1)
Causes Of Naegleria Infection
The primary cause of naegleria infection is the amoeba naegleria fowleri. This amoeba occurs in freshwater lakes, hot springs and rivers. This amoeba occurs especially during summer season. It is seen in soil as well sometimes. This amoeba will enter the nasal passage through water while swimming or performing other water sports or even through dust. It then travels to the brain by means of the nerves that conduct the sense of smell.
- A significant number of people get exposed to this amoeba every year. However, only a small number of people get affected by this infection.
- This amoeba does not spread through direct contact or eating contaminated food or drinking water. Also, swimming pools that are regularly clean and disinfected do not contain this amoeba. (1)
- A few factors that can put you more at risk of getting naegleria infection are freshwater swimming, heat-waves and age. (1)
Preventive Measures For Naegleria Infection
Some measures may lower your risk of getting naegleria infection and may help you prevent it. These may include-
- Not swimming in freshwater lakes, rivers or jumping in hot springs
- Using a nose clip or tightly shutting your nose so that water does not enter your nasal passage
- Not plunging too deep to disturb the sediment in shallow warm water bodies (1)
Treatment Of Naegleria Infection
Even if the treatment is carried out on time, the chances of recovery are very rare in people infected by this amoeba. The amoeba spreads extremely rapidly and an early diagnosis and a prompt and efficient treatment are extremely important to survive. (2)
An antifungal medicine called amphotericin B is the primary choice of treatment to treat this infection. It is administered intravenously or into the space around the spinal cord to destroy the amoebae.
A medicine called miltefosine is made available for emergency treatment of this condition. When this medicine is combined with other medications and other forms of aggressive treatment can prove to be extremely beneficial in improving the survival rate. (2)
The naegleria fowleri amoeba also known as the brain-eating amoeba causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis or PAM, which is an extremely fatal disease. As the name suggests, these amoebae enter the brain and eat the brain tissue.