Sunday, October 14, 2007

Naegleria Fowleri Amoeba, Brain-Eating Bug, Has Killed 6 in U.S.

Reports have confirmed that six Americans have been killed by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, which has come to be called the "brain-eating amoeba." The microbe lives in lakes and can be inhaled, entering the brain and feeding on brain tissue.

The microbe has recently been found in water wells in Tuscon, Arizona, but officials there say there is no threat because the city chlorinates its water before distributing it.

Though the number of people killed by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is small, health officials are concerned by the large increase in cases: the microbe has killed only 2.3 per year during the decade ending 2004.

Since the Naegleria fowleri amoeba was discovered in Australia in the 1960s, there have been only several hundred cases worldwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One of the victims have become infected in Lake Havasu City in Arizona. In 2007 there have been three cases in Florida and two in Texas in addition to the one in Arizona.

The FDA's "Bad Bug Book" has more information on the Naegleria fowleri amoeba and related microbes.

Though usually encountered in lakes, the microbe can be found almost anywhere--soil, water, and air--including hot springs and even dirty swimming pools.

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