BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA:THE TINY MONSTER FROM THE WARM WATER

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NAEGLERIA FOWLERI AND PAINFUL DEATH

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The human beings are very fragile and vulnerable when it comes to their health issues, particularly in the age of constant medical challenges. It seems that advanced world and progressed civilization attracts more threats from the nature as itself. So many new occurring diseases, terrible symptoms and undiscovered microbes. Parasites which are searching for a perfect host, for a final destination of their never-ending journey from one point to another. This is the planned  jump from one victim to the next one.

Naegleria fowleri is just an exotic,  latin name for a dangerous parasite known as brain-eating amoeba, that can enter human’s brain and cause the fatal inflammation. This type of amoeba has been discovered in 1965 as the only one which can lead to the death of infected humans. However, the all subtypes of Naegleria are equally dangerous.  It was identified first in Australia and then in America,but what is really important is a fact that this parasite enjoys the warm water, even up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit(46 degrees Celsius). The awareness of the people as potential target of this parasite is increased after series of  deaths in the U.S. lately, in Southern or Southwestern states, with the accent on Texas and Florida.

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The parasite can not be found everywhere but it could be detected in some warm lakes, ponds or rock pits. Sometimes, it is even found in mud puddles or slow-flowing rivers or untreated swimming pools and spas. Hot springs and geothermal waters are also endangered by possible  presence of Naegleria fowleri, as well as aquariums or thermally polluted waters. Very encouraging is the information that this aggressive amoeba doesn’t like  salt water and sanitary treated swimming pools, spas or municipal water.

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The tiny monster is  8 micrometers to 15 micrometers in size but it also depends on its phase of development. The destructive nature is total and based on the CDC evidences, all cases contracted with this parasite in the period between 1962 and 2015, in 98%  have been ended with death.This amoeba gets into the human brain through the nose, and that happens when people go underwater or try to dive:”‘The amoeba penetrates the brain and ‘eats’ the brain via a feeding cup’,said Dr. Karen Roos, a neurologist and infectious-disease specialist with Indiana University Health. The feeding cup is like a mouth. It is used to ingest blood cells and tissue from the host,according to Stanford.” The Mayo Clinic states that once when  amoeba starts to feed, and gets into the stage of trophozoites, the human brain swells and definitely goes to the stadium of death.

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Nevertheless, the brain-eating parasite is not something we can deal very often or something we should be worried about. According to the available statistics, this type of infection , primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) happens very rare. Even in the USA, there were only 37 severe infections in the period of observed time (2005-2015) but it is recommended to people who swim in the ponds or lakes to wear nose clips since that is the most vulnerable zone of the humans.The parasite is always directed to the nose to find and to get in, so to reach the brain without problems. The concern about being infected with amoeba through the swallowing water is not based on the reality.

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The advantage of the parasite to make progress in killing of infected population is its hard detection because of the general  symptoms:“Symptoms appear two to 15 days after a person has been exposed to the amoeba, and are nonspecific; doctors often have trouble finding the cause of a person’s symptoms.Symptoms usually include nausea and a general ill feeling, and progressive impairment of thinking and activities, which eventually lead to coma.” Since the parasite is attacking the brain and cerebral zone, the other signs also follows: A change in sense of smell or taste, sensitivity to light, loss of balance, vomiting, confusion, sleepiness, fever and hallucinations. The set of symptoms is always different, based on the individual body and immune system approach and conditions.

If the parasite is somehow discovered on time, there are very small chances for a patient to be recovered. I guess that those 2 % who survive are those lucky one, diagnosed by real experts for brain-eating amoeba. That was the case  with one 12-year-old girl in Arkansas, back in 2013. How it could be treated and cured?Actually it is all about the medical support and expansive treatment with  antifungal drug amphotericin B or  Impavido.

Amoebas usually feed themselves on bacteria but in their absence, they are not refusing  human brains to feed on them, especially when the channel to the brain is free for parasite to crawl in. Animal Planet has investigated and concluded that about 70% of lakes in the USA could be a possible home for this parasite but the diseases aren’t so massive. The amoebas are not lurking on every step we make in some of the lakes or ponds but it is not bad to be cautious and informed. The prevention is always better than the  treatment itself.

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This single-celled living organism is thermophillic and needs hot water for successful evolution. N. fowleri can exist as a cyst, when the environmental conditions are not favorable. I would say this is a similar to viruses and their sleep as crystals. Then, the second form is a trophozoite (ameboid), while the third one is biflagellate. For the humans, the most dangerous form is so called trophozoite because then it is an opened highway for amoeba to attach to the olfactory epithelium and to get to the brain via cribriform plate. The idea of parasite that preying on us in the lakes sounds  very horrific but the real picture is not so pessimistic. The infections and the fatal ends are not so presented as it is the high risk of being infected in the potential zone of amoeba activities. There are measures and standards of behaviour in the possible parasite habitats, so the people could avoid circumstances to be affected by PAM.

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We live in the cohabitation with the nature or at least we should live in mutual harmony. Once we break the peace and betray the trust of the Earth, and we do that on daily level unfortunately, the fatality of our death will be unstoppable. All parasites of the world are nothing in comparison with the human beings and their appetite for demolition of everything, everyone, everywhere.Regardless of how, Naegleria fowleri shows us that strength does not depend on the size.

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4 thoughts on “BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA:THE TINY MONSTER FROM THE WARM WATER”

  1. Sarah, I just love this article, as it is so scientific from A to Z ! So, as a scientist, I have definitely relished the topic, the presentation, and the writing! Beautiful!

    The following part, which I’m quoting from this article in your opening paragraph “Parasites which are searching for a perfect host, for a final destination of their never-ending journey from one point to another. This is the planned jump from one victim to the next one.” is very remindful of your article about rabies, namely, Rabies-Fatal Virus with Enigmatic Nature, October 13, 2016, where the virus was constantly searching for a new host in an attempt to spread itself, i.e. the desease !

    Further, in that same opening paragraph in this article, you state ” It seems that advanced world and progressed civilization attracts more threats from the nature as itself. So many new occurring diseases, terrible symptoms and undiscovered microbes.” I would like to make the correlation between this part and your article about the yellow fever in Brazil, namely, Brazil in torment: Yellow Fever outbreak, January 28, 2017, where the population has opened itself up to yellow fever through deforestation which led to an imbalance in the ecosystem, thereby creating an auspicious environment for the virus to thrive!

    In this case, the brain-eating amoeba, which thrives in warmer climates and waters, may be catalyzed by human factors such excessive CO2 emissions, which in turn, cause the greenhouse effect. The latter is known to be responsibke for global warming, hence warmer waters in general and an increase in brain-eating amoeba ! This is just my own analysis !

    And for my own closing argument, what better argument than the one employed by you, Sarah
    “We live in the cohabitation with the nature or at least we should live in mutual harmony. Once we break the peace and betray the trust of the Earth, and we do that on daily level unfortunately, the fatality of our death will be unstoppable. All parasites of the world are nothing in comparison with the human beings and their appetite for demolition of everything, everyone, everywhere.Regardless of how, Naegleria fowleri shows us that strength does not depend on the size.”

    Brilliant Profound thoughts both in your opening argument, and in your closing argument, and of course a’s well as everything in between ! Thank you so much, Sarah !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah’s article brought to mind Necrotising fasciitis (NF). Commonly, known as flesh-eating disease. It is an infection that results in the death of the body’s soft tissue. It is a severe disease of sudden onset that spreads rapidly. Symptoms include red or purple skin in the affected area, severe pain, fever and vomiting. The most commonly affected areas are the limbs and perineum.

    Typically, the infection enters the body through a break in the skin; such as a cut or burn. Risk factors include poor immune function; such as from diabetes or cancer, obesity, alcoholism, intravenous drug use and peripheral vascular disease. Prevention is achieved through good wound care and hand-washing. It is treated with surgery to remove the infected tissue and intravenous antibiotics.

    In 1994, Lucien Bouchard, former premier of Québec, Canada, who became infected while leader of the federal official opposition Bloc Québécois party, lost a leg to the illness. In 2005, Alexandru Marin, an experimental particle physicist, professor at MIT, Boston University and Harvard University, and researcher at CERN and JINR, died from the disease. In 2015, Edgar Savisaar, an Estonian politician, had his right leg amputated. He acquired the disease during a trip to Thailand.

    Over 70% of the cases, people with at least one of the following clinical situations is vulnerable: immuno-suppression, diabetes, alcoholism/drug abuse/smoking, malignancies and chronic systemic diseases. For reasons that are unclear, it occurs in people with normal general condition, occasionally.

    The majority of infections are caused by organisms that normally reside on the individual’s skin. These skin flora exist as commensals and infections reflect their anatomical distribution (e.g. perineal infections being caused by anaerobes).

    Sources of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA – a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans) may include working at municipal waste water treatment plants, exposure to secondary waste water spray irrigation, exposure to run off from farm fields fertilized by human sewage sludge or septage, hospital settings or sharing/using dirty needles.

    ‘Flesh-eating bacteria’ is a misnomer: in truth, the bacteria do not ‘eat the tissue’. They destroy the tissue that makes up the skin and muscle by releasing toxins (i.e. virulence factors); which include streptococcal pyogenic exotoxins. It affects about 0.4 in every 100,000 people per year in the United States of America. In some areas of the world, it is as common as 1 in every 100,000 people.

    Sarah’s excellent article demonstrates how vulnerable humanity is to microorganisms; including anyone, anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Can this parasite be found in dry areas of the desert such as around scorpion weed I was attacked by something in the desert people claim to be scorpion weed lasted for weeks almost over a month

    Like

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