Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba in Contaminated Water Takes 14-Year-Old's Life

The incident marks the third death due to brain-eating amoeba in Kerala in the past three months
Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, a rare brain infection caused by a free-living amoeba  (Representational image: Wikimedia Commons)
Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, a rare brain infection caused by a free-living amoeba (Representational image: Wikimedia Commons)

Another case of death by amoebic meningoencephalitis, a fatal brain infection caused by free-living Naegleria fowleri amoeba has been reported in Kerala.

Mridul, a 14-year-old boy from Kozhikode, contracted this fatal amoeba while bathing in a contaminated pond. This amoeba entered his body through his nose and then attacked his brain. He was admitted to a private hospital on June 24th after showing symptoms of headache and vomiting. He unfortunately passed away on 4th July after receiving treatment.

Prior to this case, two more deaths were reported: a five-year-old girl from Malappuram who passed away on May 21, and a 13-year-old girl from Kannur who passed away on June 25.

What is amoebic meningoencephalitis?

An irreversible and rare fatal brain infection caused by a free-living unicellular amoeba called  Naegleria fowleri. This infection is acquired through contaminated freshwater. It enters the body through the nose and then travels to the brain through the olfactory nerve feeding on nerves and causing inflammation. Transmission of this infection is strictly limited to contaminated freshwater; human-to-human transmission does not occur.

Symptoms to look out for:

  1. Headache

  2. Fever

  3. Nausea

As the disease progresses, additional symptoms can be observed like a stiff neck, confusion, seizures, hallucinations, coma, and inattention to people and surroundings. These symptoms begin to appear after 1 to 12 days after being exposed to the infection which eventually leads to death after 1 to 18 days despite providing adequate treatment with antifungal and antimicrobial medicines.

According to the statistics, 2.6 out of 10 lakh people encountering contaminated freshwater acquire this infection.
The inhabitants of Kerala often bathe in freshwater bodies, increasing their chances of contracting the infection. (Representational image: Unsplash)
The inhabitants of Kerala often bathe in freshwater bodies, increasing their chances of contracting the infection. (Representational image: Unsplash)

Why are flesh-eating amoeba observed in Kerala freshwater bodies?

This amoeba typically grows in warmer, stagnant freshwater bodies like hot springs, lakes, rivers, etc, especially during summer. Kerala, a tropical state with hot and humid conditions with monsoon rains, provides an ideal environment for them to thrive. Additionally, the inhabitants of Kerala often bathe in freshwater bodies, increasing their chances of contracting the infection.

What does the Government have to say about this?

A meeting was conducted on Friday, by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to create awareness and help prevent future cases by coming up with methods like proper chlorination of the water bodies.

There should be proper chlorination of swimming pools, and children should be careful when entering waterbodies.

Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala

Preventive measures

  1. Chlorinate the water adequately,

  2. Avoid bathing in contaminated freshwater bodies

  3. Use nose clips while swimming

  4. Keep waterbodies clean

(Input from various sources)

(Rehash/Gayatri Prakasan/MSM)

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