The Latest Invasion of Our Health By Parasites
Amoebas are free-living protozoan parasites with worldwide distribution. They exist in nature without a host and are not well adapted. According to CDC, they do not require a vector for transmission to humans or animals. A new amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, has recently entered the spotlight for causing deadly brain infections in people.
All known species of amebas cause central nervous system (brain) infections, especially in immunocompromised and immunocompetent individuals. The first cases of this infection were reported in Australia in 1965, and it has since been reported in more than 16 countries. The total number of cases is unknown, however, one review included 381 cases.
Where Do They Live?
Naegleria Fowleri is a parasite that lives in freshwater worldwide and thrives in temperate climates. It is commonly found in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, irrigation canals, hot springs, unchlorinated swimming pools, spas, and sewage but not in seawater.
How Do I Get Exposed?
You can become infected with parasites by swimming, diving, or engaging in other recreational water activities. The most common risk factors for infection include swimming, diving, jumping, splashing, and using watercraft; waterskiing; surfing; exposure to hot springs; and facial contact with mud. The parasite penetrates the mucosa (surface of the nose), crosses the cribriform plates (nose), and ultimately reaches the brain.
What Are the Symptoms?
There are several symptoms to look out for. The most common symptoms include the following:
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Photophobia (light sensitivity)
- Neck pain
- Behavioral abnormalities
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Altered mental status (confusion)
- Smell and taste abnormalities.
- Severe cranial hypertension (high pressure in the brain) leads to herniation and death in a matter of a few days.
How Do I Get Diagnosed?
You must see your medical provider immediately or go to your nearest hospital. Multiple tests will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.
Are Treatments Available?
There is no specific treatment for the disease, but some treatments might be beneficial if given early. These are combinations of medications that include anti-bacterial and anti-fungal drugs. The rarity of the disease, delay in diagnosis, fulminant clinical course, and the difficulties in making a rapid diagnosis have hampered the evaluation of drug regimens and proper treatment.