What Is The Brain-Eating Amoeba Killing Children?

A brain-eating amoeba that killed two children this summer has been found in a Louisiana water system today. What is it?

Brain eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri causing encephalitis

Just a mostly harmless brain-eating amoeba doing its job. (Image Source: CDC)

Today, in Louisiana, a mostly harmless amoeba was found in the water system of St. Bernard Parish, located on the Gulf Coast.  The Amoeba caused an uproar.  Why?  Because, through one very particular method of entry, said harmless amoeba would eat away a person's brain.  Because of this, the so-called "brain eating amoeba" killed two children this summer in America.  So what is this amoeba that is causing a panic in Louisiana?

The amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri, is a parasite amoeba that mostly resides in warm bodies of liquid, such as water.  The water bodies N. fowleri is found in are primarily fresh-water, particularly ponds and creeks and swamps.  Normally., the amoeba does nothing and swims around when contacted by most humans.  However, were water with the brain eating amoeba enter a person's nose, it would first attack the nerves and senses attached to smell, before attacking the central nervous system and brain, killing brain tissue.  When that occurs, the victim almost always dies.

First discovered in 1965 in Australia, the water being found in water caravans from wells and nearby pumps, the brain eating amoeba thrives in warm climates.  This past summer, the brain eating amoeba killed one boy in Mississippi, and another in south Florida.  Another girl, based in Arkansas, also got infected this summer, but is one of the few to survive mostly intact, due to an experimental treatment that involved cooling down the girl's body temperature and taking an anti-parasitic drug of some kind.

Thankfully, most people have nothing to fear with this brain-eating amoeba.  The amoeba is killed by stomach acid, and does not react on the skin.  Chlorinating a water system, which is done in the vast majority of water systems in this country, kills off the amoeba as well.  St. Bernard Parish is doing precisely that to prevent any deaths, though it is likely to take a few weeks before the treat takes hold throughout the parish.

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