A deadly brain-consuming amoeba — Naegleria fowleri — is crawling its way northward from the southern states of the US, per media reports. 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.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the geographic range of these cases has been advancing northward. Now, more cases are being reported in midwestern states in the US. Naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic amoeba. The “brain-eating amoeba” is a single-celled living organism that lives in warm freshwaters such as lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, streams, geothermal drinking water, swimming pools, and other recreational waterbodies. It multiplies rapidly with rising temperatures. “Naegleria Fowleri grows best at higher temperatures up to 115°F (46°C) and can survive for short periods at higher temperatures,” CDC explained in a release. When people dive in warm freshwater, ameba enters the body through the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissues. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain, where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal. Infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur due to contaminated water from other sources.