From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Naegleria fowleri
Mains level : Not Much
South Korea reported its first case of infection from Naegleria fowleri or “brain-eating amoeba”.
What is Naegleria fowleri (Amoeba)?
- Amoeba is a type of cell or unicellular organism with the ability to alter its shape, primarily by extending and retracting pseudopods.
- Naegleria is an amoeba, a single-celled organism, and only one of its species, called Naegleria fowleri, can infect humans.
- It was first discovered in Australia in 1965 and is commonly found in warm freshwater bodies, such as hot springs, rivers and lakes.
- So far, Naegleria fowleri has been found in all continents and declared as the cause of PAM in over 16 countries, including India.
How does it infect humans?
- The amoeba enters the human body through the nose and then travels up to the brain.
- This can usually happen when someone goes for a swim, or dive or even when they dip their head in a freshwater body.
- In some cases, it was found that people got infected when they cleaned their nostrils with contaminated water/ vapour/ or aerosol droplets.
- Once Naegleria fowleri goes to the brain, it destroys brain tissues and causes a dangerous infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
What are the symptoms of PAM?
- The CDC says the first signs of PAM start showing within one to 12 days after the infection.
- In the initial stages, they might be similar to symptoms of meningitis, which are headache, nausea and fever.
- In the later stages, one can suffer from a stiff neck, seizures, hallucinations, and even coma.
- The infection spreads rapidly and on average causes death within about five days.
How its spread is linked to climate change?
- With the rising global temperatures, the chances of getting Naegleria fowleri infection will go up as the amoeba mainly thrives in warm freshwater bodies.
- The organism best grows in high temperatures up to 46°C and sometimes can survive at even higher temperatures.
- Various recent studies have found that excess atmospheric carbon dioxide has led to an increase in the temperature of lakes and rivers.
- These conditions provide a more favourable environment for the amoeba to grow.
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