Naegleria Infections Explained

A naegleria infection is an extremely rare and fatal infections that involves the brain. This infection is caused by an amoeba that can be found in hot springs, freshwater lakes, and rivers. You can contract this amoeba by swimming or doing other water sports in the body of water. This amoeba is also known as Naegleria fowleri. This amoeba is usually found in warm bodies of fresh water, usually during the summertime.

Sometimes, the amoeba can be found in soil as well. This amoeba can travel up one's nose and into the brain via contaminated water, causing severe damage. Many reported cases of a naegleria infection die within a week of contracting this disease. Although millions are exposed to the amoeba that causes naegleria each year, only a few actually contract the infection. During the years 2005 to 2014, only 35 naegleria infections were reported. It has still been unknown why some people develop this infection while many others do not.

Naegleria infections causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a disease that causes the inflammation of the brain and destruction of the brain tissue. Some early signs of naegleria infection that may occur within the first 2 to 15 days of exposure include hallucinations, sleepiness, seizures, confusion, loss of balance, stiff neck, fever, nausea, vomiting, change in sense of taste and smell, and severe headache.

Because these symptom progress quickly, death can occur within a week. Although this is a rare disease, there are certain factors that increase your risk for this infection. Those who swim in freshwater are more likely to contract this infections. When there is a heat wave, the water will warm up, making it the perfect place for the amoeba to thrive in.

Age also plays a factor as well. Because children and young adults are most likely to be infected because they are more likely to stay in the water for a longer time and are more active in the water.

In order to diagnose naegleria infection, there are some tests doctors can use. A computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to look for any swelling or bleeding in the brain. A CT scan uses a combination of X-ray views taken from multiple angles to reveal detailed cross sectional images. An MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to reveal very detailed images of the soft tissues (for example: the brain). Another way to detect a naegleria infection would be to administer a spinal tap. Naegleria amoeba can be found in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord under a microscope. During a spinal tap, the spinal fluid would be gathered by inserting a needle in the lower back. This test can also detect inflammatory cells in the spinal fluid.

Even with early detection, there are not many that survive. However, if this disease is to be diagnosed early on, there is a higher chance of survival.

The primary form of treatment for naegleria infection is an antifungal drug called amphotericin B. This drug can be injected into the vein or into the spinal cord to kill the amoebas. Recently, a drug called miltefosine (also known as Impavido) can be used for an emergency treatment of naegleria infection. This drug, along with a variety of other medications and management of brain swelling, can increase the chances of survival.There are some ways to prevent this infections. It is suggested that one avoid swimming or diving in warm freshwater lakes and rivers. It is also recommended to hold one's nose shut or use nose clips when submerged in warm bodies of fresh water. 

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