South Korea reports first case of deadly brain-eating amoeba infection

Naegleria Fowleri: brain-eating amoeba
Naegleria Fowleri: brain-eating amoebaNYT

Amid a new Covid-19 scare emerging in China, South Korea has reported the first case of Naegleria fowleri infection that has killed a man in his 50s. The lethal injection is reportedly attributed to a brain-eating amoeba that he was likely exposed to in Thailand.

According to a report in The Korea Times, the man who had stayed in Thailand for four months before returning to Korea on December 10, died after being infected with Naegleria fowleri. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) confirmed the findings.

What is brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri?

Naegleria is a single-celled living organism that is microscopic in existence. The free-living amoeba is found all across freshwater systems, including lakes, rivers, and soil. However, not all species of amoeba have a killer attitude. It is Naegleria fowleri that infects humans.

According to the US-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Naegleria fowleri the amoeba infiltrates people through the nose and travels up to the brain, hitting core tissues and damaging the nerves at times. It causes a devastating infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is mostly fatal.

The infections usually happen when temperatures are hot, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.

The single-cell infiltrator causes Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is characterised by severe frontal headache. Other symptoms of the infection include:

- Fever
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Stiff neck

If the condition gets serious it could lead to seizures, altered mental status, hallucinations, and even coma. According to the CDC, only 4 out of 154 people in the United States have survived infection from 1962 to 2021.

Can it transmit from human to human?

No, the Naegleria fowleri infection cannot be spread from one person to another.

Is there a vaccine for Naegleria fowleri?

While there are some treatments available, long-lasting effective treatment is yet to be identified.

Currently, PAM is treated with a combination of drugs, often including amphotericin B, azithromycin, fluconazole, rifampin, miltefosine, and dexamethasone
CDC notes in its brief.

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