Brain Eating Monster

Parasite takes three lives this summer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Temperatures are rising all around the country and people are jumping into lakes or rivers to cool off. But, something is lurking in the water and it has taken three lives this year.

Naegleria fowleri is the name of a free-living amoeba that has claimed three lives this summer - two kids and one man. People are advised not to jump or swim in any warm, stagnant bodies of water.

"Don't swim or drink from warm, stagnant water."

Naegleria fowleri (N. fowleri) is found in warm fresh water like lakes and rivers, naturally hot water like hot springs, warm water that has been discharged from industrial plants, naturally hot drinking sources, soil and un-chlorinated swimming pools.

N. fowleri is the only species of its kind that infects people. The parasite enters through the nose of individuals and makes its way to the brain. Once in the brain, it destroys tissue in the brain which causes sudden headaches, fever, vomiting, stiff neck, lethargy (feeling lazy/sluggish), and coma.

A 16 year old Florida girl fell ill after taking a swim in a the St. Johns River. A 9 year old Virginia boy was struck by the parasite during fishing camp. The latest death was in a Louisiana man who used tainted tap water in a Neti Pot.

A Neti Pot is used to help clear out the sinuses with a water/saline solution. This man used tap water from his home sink which is usually acceptable as long as salt solution is added. The salt solution should've killed most bacteria in tap water - especially N. fowleri.

N. fowleri live in freshwater so too much salt will cause the amoeba to die. How the parasite got into the man's tap water is still a mystery because the city water system did not find any N. fowleri.

All victims were treated, but there are no effective drugs available for humans at this time. So avoid warm, stagnant bodies of water and use purified water in Neti Pots.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 19, 2011
Last Updated:
August 21, 2011