The year 2020 may almost be over, but the horrifying revelations keep coming. And if you thought that COVID-19 was bad, we assume that the thought of a deadly 'brain-eating amoeba' will possibly make your toes curl. And just to make matters worse, there has apparently been a rise in such cases.
According to a new study published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, there has been a rise in cases involving Naegleria fowleri - a free-living microscopic ameba - over the last decade. In data that has now been uploaded to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a rise in cases in the Midwest region after 2010. Not only that, the data suggests a northward expansion, noting that rising temperatures and consequent increases in recreational water use may be contributing factors.
Naegleria fowleri can cause a rare, but deadly infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Commonly found in warm freshwater, it usually enters through the nose. However, swallowing contaminated water cannot infect you.
The study tracked cases from 1978–2018, stating that the incidence of reported cases in the US had remained stable, even as reported incidences had increased worldwide. According to the CDC, there have been zero to eight case reports of PAM on an average every year.
"Signs and symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection are clinically similar to bacterial meningitis, which lowers the chances of initially diagnosing PAM," the CDC explains. While rare, the disease is generally fatal and there have been only five known survivors in North America - from 1978 to 2016.