Symptoms and Signs of Naegleria fowleri (Brain-Eating Ameoba) Infection

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Medically Reviewed on 4/22/2022

Doctor's Notes on Naegleria fowleri (Brain-Eating Ameoba) Infection

Naegleria fowleri (brain-eating amoeba) is an amoeba that normally lives in warm freshwater. When forced into a person's nasal cavity, it can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and death (97% fatality rate). Signs and symptoms of PAM start about 5 days after exposure and include

After PAM symptoms start to develop, the disease rapidly progresses; death usually occurs in about 1 to 9 days after symptoms start. Fortunately, PAM is a rare disease. The cause of PAM is when Naegleria fowleri are forced into the nasal passages (during diving, falling when water skiing, for example). The amoeba then proceeds to enter the brain through the nerve pathways and begin to destroy brain tissue and quickly causes death. Only four of 143 people with known infections have survived since 1962-2017.

What Are the Treatments for Naegleria fowleri?

Even with treatments, survival is unlikely. However, if treated early in the infection, survival has a small chance to occur. The treatments for Naegleria fowleri are as follows:

The above drugs are often used together; infectious disease specialists may have the latest experimental treatment protocols to treat this deadly infection.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.