Naegleria fowleri Infection (Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection)

  • Medical Author:
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

  • Medical Author: Jeremy Cauwels, MD, FACP
  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Can Naegleria fowleri infections be prevented?

The risk of infection with Naegleria fowleri can be reduced by trying to avoid aspiration of freshwater into the nose through basic swimming-safety measures like avoiding dunking, wearing nose plugs, avoiding areas with signs stating that amoebas are present, and other common-sense measures. Unfortunately, it is not possible to eliminate the amoeba from all freshwater sources. Standard chlorination of swimming pools is sufficient to eliminate the organism. Untreated well water or other sources of unchlorinated water should not be forced into the nose or used to irrigate the nose.

What is the prognosis of a Naegleria fowleri infection?

The prognosis for infected patients is very poor. More than 99% of infections are fatal despite treatment. The rare survivors may have residual neurological problems, such as seizure disorders.

Where can people find additional information about Naegleria fowleri infections?

The CDC is a good source of information on Naegleria infections: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html.

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

REFERENCES:

Budge, P.J. "Primary amebic meningoencephalitis in Florida: a case report and epidemiological review of Florida cases." J Environ Health. 75 (2013): 26-31.

Yoder, J.S., B.A. Eddy, G.S. Visvesvara, L. Capewell, and M.J. Beach. "The Epidemiology of Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis in the USA, 1962-2008." Epidemiol Infect. 138.7 July 2010: 968-975.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/8/2015

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