Amoeba on the Brain? – Naegleria fowleri

Stages of Naegleria fowleri, a member of the P...

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– Scientific Classification –

  • Kingdom: Eukaryota
  • Phylum: Percolozoa
  • Class: Heterolobosea
  • Order: Schizopyrenida
  • Family: Vahlkampfiidae
  • Genus: Naegleria
  • Species: N. fowleri

Unfortunately for three people in the Southern US, the amoeba on their brain, was a brain eater. The culprit is Naegleria fowleri. This free-living amoeba causes a disease of the brain called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.. The trophozoite stage migrates up the olfactory nerves and optic nerves to the brain.  “The illness is extremely rare. About 120 U.S. cases — almost all of them deaths — have been reported since the amoeba was identified in the early 1960s, according to the CDC.” (Related article #4) “In the first week it causes major headaches, fever, vomiting and a stiffening of the neck, eventually leading to confusion, seizures and hallucinations. The disease is almost always fatal.” (Related article #5)

The amoeba can be found in warm lakes, rivers, and heated (poorly treated) swimming pools. With an increase in temperature, the amoeba sprouts flagella allowing them to move about the water column.

There is currently no cure but some drugs have proved effective in a laboratory setting.

:: Some of the information in this post is from Dr. Lindsay’s guest lectures of Introductory Parasitology at Virginia Tech ::

Related articles

  1. Brain-eating amoeba rare but deadly: How to stay safe (cbsnews.com)
  2. Brain-eating “amoeba” (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
  3. Brain-Eating Amoeba FAQ (webmd.com)
  4. CDC Asks to Test Virginia Water for Deadly Amoeba (foxnews.com)
  5. Three young Americans killed by amoeba that attacks brain (theprovince.com)
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