Definition

What is naegleria infection?

Naegleria infection is a rare and usually fatal brain infection caused by an amoeba commonly found in freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs. Exposure occurs during swimming or other water sports.

The amoeba — called Naegleria fowleri — travels up the nose to the brain, where it causes severe damage. Most people who have naegleria infection die within a week.

How common is naegleria infection?

Even though N. fowleri amoebas are relatively common, they only rarely cause brain disease. N. fowleri disease is known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). It occurs from zero to eight times a year, almost always from July to September.

It’s considered a rare infection. But some cases may be unreported. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of naegleria infection?

The common symptoms of naegleria infection are:

There may also be hallucinations, drooping eyelid, blurred vision, and loss of the sense of taste.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Seek immediate medical attention if you develop a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck and vomiting, particularly if you have recently been in warm, fresh water.

Causes

What causes naegleria infection?

Naegleria infection is caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, which is commonly found in warm bodies of fresh water around the world, usually during the summer months. The amoeba is also sometimes found in soil. The amoeba enters your body through your nose, via contaminated water or dust, and travels to your brain through the nerves that transmit your sense of smell.

Only a tiny percentage of the millions of people who are exposed to Naegleria fowleri ever get sick from it. Why some people become infected after exposure and others don’t isn’t known.

The amoeba isn’t spread from person to person or by drinking contaminated water. And properly cleaned and disinfected swimming pools don’t contain the naegleria amoeba.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for naegleria infection?

There are many risk factors for naegleria infection, such as:

  • Freshwater swimming. Most people who become ill have been swimming in a freshwater lake within the previous two weeks.
  • Heat waves. The amoeba thrives in warm or hot water.
  • Children and young adults are the most likely age groups to be affected, possibly because they’re likely to stay in the water longer and are more active in the water.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is naegleria infection diagnosed?

Imaging tests

Computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can reveal swelling and bleeding within the brain.

  • CT scan. This procedure combines X-ray views taken from many different directions into detailed cross-sectional images.
  • An MRI machine uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce extremely detailed images of soft tissues, such as the brain.

Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)

Naegleria amoeba can be seen under a microscope in the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. The spinal fluid is obtained by inserting a needle between two vertebrae in your lower back. This test also can measure the cerebral spinal fluid pressure and look for inflammatory cells.

How is naegleria infection treated?

Few people survive naegleria infection, even with treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for survival.

The primary treatment for naegleria infection is an antifungal drug, amphotericin B — usually injected into a vein (intravenously) or into the space around your spinal cord to kill the amoebas.

An investigational drug called miltefosine (Impavido) is now available for emergency treatment of naegleria infection through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The medicine, when taken with other medications and along with aggressive management of brain swelling, may show promise for improved survival.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage naegleria infection?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you prevent naegleria infection:

  • Don’t swim in or jump into warm freshwater lakes and rivers.
  • Hold your nose shut or use nose clips when jumping or diving into warm bodies of fresh water.
  • Avoid disturbing the sediment while swimming in shallow, warm fresh waters.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: November 24, 2017 | Last Modified: November 24, 2017

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