Naegleria - Health Center


By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Naegleria – Basic Overview

Naegleria is a kind of rare and fatal brain infection which is caused due to an amoeba commonly found in lakes, rivers and hot water springs. Exposure to this amoeba occurs during swimming or indulging in water sports. The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri travels via the nose to the brain, causing extensive damage. Most people suffering from Naegleria Infection die within a week.

Millions of people all over the world are exposed to the amoeba which causes Naegleria infection, however, only a few get sick from it. Avoiding warm water bodies and wearing proper gear helps to prevent the onset of such infections. 

Causes of Naegleria Infection:

The Naegleria fowleri amoeba is the causative agent behind the Naegleria infection. These organisms are found in warm bodies of fresh water all over the world. The chance of their occurrence is manifold during the summer months. The amoeba tends to enter the body via the nose and then travels to the brain through the olfactory nerves.

Only a small percentage of people who are exposed to Naegleria fowleri tend to get sick from it. That is one of the major reasons why only some people become infected after the initial exposure to the amoeba. The amoeba does not spread from one person to the other or by drinking contaminated water. Swimming pools which are properly cleaned and disinfected do not carry the amoeba Naegleria amoeba. 

Signs and Symptoms of Naegleria Infection:

Naegleria Infection causes a disease known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis. This disease results in brain inflammation and damage to the brain tissue. Generally, the infection begins within two to fifteen days of the initial exposure to the virus. The following are the major signs and symptoms of the infection:

  •       Change in the sense of smell and taste
  •       Onset of fever
  •       Headaches
  •       Stiffness of the neck
  •       Increased sensitivity towards light
  •       Vomiting and nausea
  •       Increased confusion
  •       Loss of body balance
  •       Hallucinations
  •       Seizures

These symptoms tend to progress very rapidly and can lead to the death of the affected person within a week.

It is recommended to seek immediate medical attention if you develop fever, headache, stiffness of the neck and vomiting.

Tests and Diagnosis of Naegleria:

The following tests are used in order to diagnose the infection:

Imaging Tests:

Imaging Tests such as Computerized Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging are used in order to check for signs of swelling and bleeding within the brain.

CT Scans: This procedure combines the X rays which are taken across different sections of the brain in order to produce cross sectional images of the brain.

MRI Scans: MRI Scans use radio waves and a strong magnetic field in order to get detailed images of the soft tissues of the brain.

Spinal Tap: Naegleria amoeba is present in the cerebro spinal fluid around the brain and the spinal cord. This spinal fluid can be obtained by inserting a needle between the vertebrae of the spinal cord. This test measures the pressure of the spinal fluid and looks for signs of inflammation between the cells. 

Treatment and Drugs for Naegleria:

Only a handful people survive from the Naegleria infection, even when proper treatment is administered. However, early diagnosis of the condition is very crucial in order to help the people get a good prognosis.

The primary course of treatment against Naegleria infection is the prescription of an antifungal drug, amphotericin B. This drug is injected directly into the vein or around the space in the spinal cord in order to kill the amoeba. 

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