A young boy, named Zachary Reyna has been struck down by a deadly, brain-eating amoeba, called Naegleria Fowleri. The pathogen has the ability to kill 99 percent of its victims, but is very rarely contracted within the United States. Alas, if statistics are anything to go by, it seems his fate is not looking promising.
A young adolescent, situated in Miami, Florida, acquired the infection when playing in a ditch, just outside his home. He has been immediately hospitalized, and remains in an intensive care unit, in critical condition.
Naegleria Fowleri is a single-celled, thermophilic organism, typically confined to fresh water lakes and rivers, as well as soil, swimming pools, canals, factory waste and well water. The majority of cases are diagnosed in the southern states of the U.S., of which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) half are observed within Florida and Texas. Fowleri can survive at surprisingly high temperatures (46°C) and, due to its thermophilic nature, is more prevalent between the hot months of July and August.
The brain-eating pathogen enters through the nasal cavity, typically when the victim is operating in contaminated areas. Once Fowleri enters the nasal cavity, it can hitch a ride into the brain, via the olfactory nerves (involved in taste and smell), where it settles in for the duration. Once the infection has disseminated to the brain, this condition then becomes known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The amoeba then replicates and begins attacking brain tissue, explaining how 99 percent of victims are killed.
According to Fox4 News, health officials are offering recommendations on how to remain safe, urging denizens to keep their heads above water and use nose clips, whilst ensuring to limit their exposure to potential sources of the harmful amoeboid.
The disease is typically always fatal and only one patient, between the years of 1962 and 2012, has managed to recover from the disease in the United States, out of a total of 128 people who had acquired the contagion.
Typical symptoms are akin to those perceived in bacterial meningitis sufferers, another infection that affects the central nervous system (CNS). This presents a significant problem, where such resemblance introduces a great deal of confusion when medical practitioners attempt diagnosis. The rapidity of disease progression complicates this scenario, further still, resulting in a diagnosis that often transpires only following the victim’s demise.
There are two disease stages, as outlined by the CDC, with a number of the following symptoms corresponding with those seen during meningitis:
- Intense headache
- Emesis (vomiting)
- Neck rigidity
- Cognitive changes and altered mental state
- Hallucinations and delirium
The only way to diagnose the disease is by extracting a sample of the fluid that bathes the patient’s central nervous system, called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Once collected, the amoebae can then be detected using microscopy, or by growing it on a culture plate, filled with growth medium, at high temperature.
The residents of Zachary Reyna’s home town congregated near the hospital, where he has been admitted. A touching Facebook page, called Pray4Number4 – Zachary Reyna, has also been constructed to offer words of kindness and prayer to the young boy, which has garnered considerable backing.
The incident has many of the town’s residents scared, and wondering whether their children could be the next victims of the brain-eating infection. Despite the apparent 99 percent death rate, let us hope that Zachary Reyna can become one of the fortunate few who lives to tell the tale.
By: James Fenner