Naegleria fowleri: A Real Life Horror

As summer comes to an end, you may want to think twice about that last swim.

Three people have already died this summer because of Naegleria fowleri, a free living microscopic amoeba that feasts upon your brain until it causes Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, an infection that is usually fatal.


This unwanted guest lives in contaminated water supplies, which include lakes, rivers, and poorly cleaned swimming pools. It makes its way through the nose, reaches the brain through the olfactory nerve, and destroys neural tissue causing an inflammatory infection in your skull.

This outbreak is not isolated, cases of death this summer have come in from Virginia, Louisiana, and Florida.

Here is an scanning electron microscopy photo of N. fowleri growing in culture. Notice its sucker-like appendages.


Human beings have no natural defense against the amoeba. It is difficult to treat, and often misdiagnosed as bacterial meningitis due to the similar symptoms.

Diving into contaminated water, splashing around, dunking a friend, and other activities that would cause water to go up your nose are the highest risks to catch the amoeba.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims even if the water is contaminated, it safe to drink. I will leave that choice up to you!

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