Definition of Naegleria infection

Naegleria infection: Infection from an ameba called Naegleria fowleri that is commonly found in the environment, in water and soil. It is found worldwide, most commonly in warm bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs; warm water discharge from industrial plants; and under-chlorinated swimming pools.

Infection with Naegleria is most common during the dry, summer months, when the temperature is above 80° F and the water is warm and water levels are low. Infection occurs when the ameba enters the body through the nose while the person is swimming underwater or diving. The ameba then travels to the brain and spinal cord.

Infection with Naegleria causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain inflammation, which leads to the destruction of brain tissue. Initial signs and symptoms of PAM include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. As the ameba causes more extensive destruction of brain tissue this leads to confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance and bodily control, seizures, hallucinations. The disease progresses rapidly and infection usually results in death within 3 to 7 days.

Several drugs are effective against Naegleria in the laboratory. However, although a variety of treatments have been used to treat infected persons, their effectiveness is unclear since most infections have been fatal. Prompt diagnosis and treatment may help. Naegleria infection cannot be spread from person to person contact.

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