Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Naegleria fowleri: the Brain-eating Amoeba


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Naegleria fowleri, Amoeba

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • A five-year-old girl in Kozhikode, Kerala has succumbed to primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), caused by Naegleria fowleri.
    • India has recorded 20 reported cases of PAM, with the recent case marking the seventh infection in Kerala.

What is Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM)?

  • PAM is a rare brain infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, a free-living amoeba found in warm freshwater and soil worldwide.
    • An amoeba is a type of cell or unicellular organism with the ability to alter its shape, primarily by extending and retracting pseudopods.
    • Higher temperatures of up to 115°F (46°C) are conducive to its growth and it can survive for short periods in warm environments.
  • The amoeba enters the body through the nose, typically during activities like swimming, and travels to the brain, causing severe damage.
  • PAM is also non-communicable.
  • Symptoms: Headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, seizures, hallucinations, and coma.
    • According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people with PAM die within 1 to 18 days after symptoms begin. It usually leads to coma and death after 5 days.

Treatment Challenges

  • Currently, there are no established effective treatments for PAM.
  • Medical interventions typically involve a combination of drugs, including amphotericin B, azithromycin, fluconazole, rifampin, miltefosine, and dexamethasone.

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