What is the 'Brain-Eating Amoeba'? 1st death in South Korea confirmed
Naegleria fowleri is known as a brain-eating amoeba, which killed a Korean national, marking the first death.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported its first case of infection with Naegleria fowleri, colloquially known as the "brain-eating amoeba," on December 26.
The "brain-eating amoeba" Naegleria fowleri, which can be found in soil and warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs, has claimed its first victim in South Korea.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, the man, a Korean national in his 50s, died after returning to the country on December 10 from Thailand, where he had spent four months. The man was admitted to the hospital the next day after his return, suffering from symptoms such as a headache, fever, vomiting, and speech dysfunction, among others. On December 21, he passed away.
The KDCA confirmed Monday the infection in a deceased patient with brain meningitis who had "recently returned from abroad" after performing genetic tests on three types of pathogens causing Naegleria fowleri.
“To prevent the infection of Naegleria fowleri, we recommend avoiding swimming and leisure-related activities and using clean water when traveling to areas where cases have been reported,” said Jee Young-mee, head of the KDCA, in a press release.
People in the country were also strongly advised to take precautions against the culprit, such as swimming with special clips on their noses to keep water out. Around 381 cases of Naegleria fowleri have been reported worldwide since 2018, including in Thailand, India, the United States, Japan, and China.
What is Naegleria Fowleri?
The single-cell organism Naegleria fowleri, a species of the genus Naegleria, is a type of amoeba that is specially adapted to living in warm freshwater and soil.
Its preferred habitat, where it enjoys its highest reproductive rate, is a warm water environment characterized by a temperature of around 115 F (46.11 degrees Celsius.) It can be found in lakes, rivers, and geothermal hot springs.
Frequent warm water discharge from industrial or power plants, poorly maintained (minimally chlorinated) swimming pools, and water heaters can all be the source of the rare but often fatal infection. The unicellular organism can also survive in damp soil, but it cannot survive in salt water, such as the sea.
The microorganism is less likely to thrive when water temperatures fall below 77°F (25°C). In colder temperatures, the amoeba typically goes dormant. It does not, however, die and is able to survive because it is buried in the sediment of a body of water.
How does Naegleria Fowleri infect people?
There have been no documented cases of infection caused by consuming contaminated water. The amoeba consumes erythrocytes, also known as red blood cells, and nerve cells as it travels up the nose to the brain and spinal cord.
As a result, it causes inflammation and destruction of brain tissue, resulting in the rare and severe disease known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. People cannot spread either the amoeba or the disease it contains through human contact.
What Are Symptoms of PAM?
The first symptoms of PAM usually appear about five days after infection. However, in some cases, symptoms appear as soon as one day after exposure or as late as 12 days after contamination.
A severe headache, feverish chills, nausea, or vomiting are possible symptoms. Further symptoms may include a stiff neck, disorientation, seizures and hallucinations, and, eventually, a coma.
Is PAM Fatal?
Triggered by a free-living amoeba Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) caused by Naegleria fowleri is a disease that affects the central nervous system.
PAM is almost always fatal, with a death rate of more than 97 percent estimated. Only four people survived the disease caused by the microorganism in the United States between 1962 and 2021, out of a total of 154 people who were infected.
How Is PAM Diagnosed?
PAM can be diagnosed in the laboratory by microscopic examination of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or brain tissue to detect Naegleria fowleri organisms, in addition to watching for warning symptoms.
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