Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Naegleria fowleri infection facts
- Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that lives predominately in warm, fresh water.
- Naegleria fowleri is acquired by people when infected water is forcibly aspirated into the nose. This can occur through recreational swimming, diving, or during sports like water skiing.
- Once acquired, the amoeba travels into the brain, causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
- PAM is very rare, and there are only a few cases reported each year in the United States.
- People with PAM initially experience changes in smell or taste. The disease advances rapidly, causing fever, stiff neck, and coma.
- Infection is diagnosed by examining spinal fluid under the microscope to identify the amoeba. Naegleria fowleri may also be grown in the laboratory, although this takes several days. Newer tests based on PCR technology are being developed.
- The treatment of choice is an intravenous drug called amphotericin B. Amphotericin B may also be instilled directly into the brain.
- More than 95% of cases of PAM are fatal despite treatment.