Naegleria has potential to convert in epidemic, warns expert

May 23, 2013 Off By Web Desk

Karachi: The citizens are cautioned to adopt precautionary measures against the disease ‘Naegleria fowleri’ causing brain disease, as the disease is hundred percents fatal, having potential to be converted into an epidemic.

This was said by Director International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), Karachi University (KU) Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Chaudhary, expressed these views, while delivering a lecture on Thursday at Dr. Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD).

He said the people living in Karachi are on higher risk because the citizens, as per their needs they have to store water in underground and overhead tanks where N. fowleri amoebas grow.

N. fowleri disease is also known as Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM).

Naegleria loves very warm water. It can survive in water as hot as 113º Fahrenheit (46Cº). Naegleria can’t live in salt water. There is a dire need to have trained doctors and health workers in the city to deal with this disease. Authorities concerned must stop supply of untreated water to the citizens.

It is pertinent to mention here that as many as 10 people died of Naegleria fowleri during July 7 to October 3, 2012, as per a report prepared by Sindh Health Department last year.

Dr. Iqbal Chaudhary said that Naegleria disease is 100 per cent preventable. He said N. fowleri amoebas live in fresh water like ponds, lakes, swimming pools, underground and overhead water tanks. Naegleria can’t survive in properly treated swimming pools or in properly treated municipal water.

“Naegleria normally eats bacteria, but when the amoeba gets into humans, it uses the brain as a food source. N. fowleri amoeba disease is not infectious. Infection does not occur by drinking water infested with N. fowleri amoeba.”

The disease takes 2 to 15 days for symptoms to appear after N. fowleri amoebas enter the nose. Death usually occurs 3 to 7 days after symptoms appear. The average time to death is 5 to 3 days from symptom onset.

Symptoms include headache, fever, stiff neck, loss of appetite, vomiting, altered mental state, fits, coma, and death. There may also be hallucinations, drooping eyelid, blurred vision and loss of the sense of taste.

There is no rapid test for infection with brain-eating amoeba. It can take weeks to identify the amoeba. However, MRI brain may be suggestive.

The citizens can protect themselves by avoid swimming underwater, diving, water skiing, and jumping in warm, still waters during the late summer, Chaudhary advised and maintained that swimmers must wear a nose clip when swimming, boating, or playing in or on warm waters; personal actions can reduce the risk of Naegleria fowleri infection.