Naegleria disease is 100pc preventable: expert
01 November, 2012
KARACHI: Citizens are advised to take preventive measures against the new fatal disease Naegleria Fowleri, which is considered 99 percent fatal but 100 percent preventable.
Even though Naegleria Fowleri amoebas are relatively common, they only rarely cause brain disease. Naegleria Fowleri disease is known as Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM). Naegleria loves very warm water. It can survive in water as hot as 113º Fahrenheit (46º Celsius). It cannot live in salt water. As many as 10 people have died of Naegleria Fowleri during July 7 to October 3, 2012."
Dow University of Health Sciences Pathology Department Chairman Prof Dr M Rafiq Khanani expressed these views while speaking at a public awareness seminar on 'Naegleria Fowleri, Brain-eating amoeba' held at Prof Salimuzzaman Siddiqui Auditorium of International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi (KU) on Wednesday.
Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) and Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP) jointly organised the seminar.
Prof Khanani said that Naegleria could not survive in properly treated swimming pools or in properly treated municipal water. Naegleria normally eats bacteria, but when the amoeba gets into humans, it uses the brain as a food source, he maintained. He said, "A person infected with Naegleria Fowleri amoeba cannot spread the infection to another person. Infection does not occur by drinking water infested with Naegleria Fowleri amoeba." Talking about symptoms of the infection, he said it takes 2 to 15 days for symptoms to appear after Naegleria Fowleri amoebas enter the nose.
"Death usually occurs three to seven days after symptoms appear. The average time to death is three to five days from symptom onset. Only a handful of patients worldwide have been reported to have survived the infection. At first, PAM may seem like viral meningitis. Symptoms include: headache, fever, stiff neck, loss of appetite, vomiting, altered mental state, fits, coma, and death. There may also be hallucinations, drooping eyelid, blurred vision and loss of the sense of taste.
About 95 percent infections have been fatal, even when people were treated with drug combinations. A number of drugs kill Naegleria Fowleri amoebas in the test tube. But even when treated with these drugs, very few patients survive. There is no rapid test for infection with brain-eating amoeba. It can take weeks to identify the amoeba. However, MRI of the brain may be suggestive," he said.