A 36-year-old man in northern Israel has been killed by a rare infection caused by a protozoan amoeba said to feed on human brains. The man has been diagnosed with primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a deadly brain infection caused by the brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri. This amoeba can be found in standing water sources. The Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias discovered the case. What exactly is Naegleria fowleri? What exactly is amoebic meningoencephalitis?
Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is a rare brain infection caused by Naegleria fowleri. It usually ends with the death of the host. It is extremely rare to find amoebas in humans. This amoeba thrives in warm freshwater environments such as lakes, rivers, hot springs, industrial waste, natural water sources, poorly maintained or unchlorinated swimming pools, and even water heaters. It does not inhabit the sea.
Amoeba Naegleria is a very unusual microorganism. However, it almost always kills. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 148 such cases were detected in the country between 1962 and 2019. In the last ten years, 34 infections have been detected, with only three people surviving despite treatment. It requires a temperature greater than 46 degrees Celsius. This cannot be seen without a microscope.
Naegleria fowleri infects humans by entering the body through the nose. Most infected people contract the amoeba while swimming. It travels up the nose and destroys brain tissue. Symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, stiff neck, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. The disease kills the host within five days of the onset of brain-related symptoms. The infection cannot be cured. It cannot spread from person to person through contact or by drinking contaminated water.