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What does Research Reveal about Brain Eating Amoeba?


Research reveals the mystery of brain-eating amoeba targeting the brain

Nagri Amoeba flexneri is small and sinister. All it needs is liquid splash. Brain-eating amoeba (amoeba) will enter the swimmer's brain through the nose unconsciously. Once something happens, the chance of survival of the intruder is almost zero. "They have food cups that look like giant suckers on their bodies," says Francine Cabral of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, USA. "Then they will start eating their brains."


Now, researchers have discovered why there is a close relationship between this deadly amoeba and the brain. This research breakthrough is expected to develop life-saving drugs.


This amoeba, called Nagri Amoeba flexneri, usually lurks in fresh water, but it sometimes causes infections in hot springs and unhealthy chlorinated swimming pools. In the 35 cases reported in the United States from 2005 to 2014, there were only two survivors. In August of this year, a 19-year-old woman died after being infected in Maryland.


When amoeba enters the human body, they enter the brain directly through the nasal cavity and related tissues, where they first destroy the brain area responsible for smell and part of the frontal lobe area of ​​the brain, which is very important for cognition and control of people's behavior .


Why Amoeba Targets Brain?

Why amoeba targets the brain has always been an unknown mystery. Abdul Mannan Baig of Aga Khan University in Pakistan speculates that this amoeba may be attracted by a chemical called acetylcholine (ACh), which is released in large quantities by cells in the front of the brain. This chemical is known to act as a magnet for some immune cells and growing neurons.


To test this theory, Mannan looked for receptors in the amoeba that might be connected to ACh. He and his colleagues started using Acanthamoeba (a similar species that infects people through skin wounds). 

Infographics on Research on Brain Eating Amoeba
Brain Eating Amoeba

The team sorted out 126 proteins from this amoeba, and searched for other proteins with similar tissues or structures in the database. The structure of one is similar to the structure of the human ACh receptor. The team then repeated the study with the genus Nessler and produced the same results.


This shows that amoeba has a unique ancient receptor for ACh, Mannan said. This attraction may cause it to pass directly through the nasal cavity and into the brain.


Cabral, who was not involved in the study, believes that ACh may be the culprit, but she pointed out that more evidence is needed for further verification.


The latest US CDC study says: Fatal brain-eating amoeba spreads in the US

The death case of "Naegleria fowleri" (Naegleria fowleri) was previously reported in the United States. Now the latest research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that due to climate warming, the distribution of brain-eating amoeba in the United States has a tendency to spread northward .


According to a comprehensive report, the latest report published by the CDC in the international medical journal Emerging Infectious Disease in January shows that the distribution of brain-eating amoeba in the United States has a tendency to spread from the south to the midwest.


Researchers looked at the cases of primary amebicmeningoencephalitis (PAME) caused by brain amoeba from 1978 to 2018. A total of 85 cases were viewed. 74 cases were found in the central and southern states, and the central and western states.

The state found 6 cases. The Midwestern states where the cases occurred include Minnesota, Kansas, and Indiana. It is worth noting that 5 of these 6 cases occurred after 2010.


The researchers found that the distribution of new cases discovered every year moved about 8.2 miles (about 13.2 kilometers) northward on average. In other words, the distribution of brain-eating amoeba is spreading northward.


What is the official name of Brain Eating Amoeba?

The official name of the brain-eating amoeba is Naegleria fowleri

It prefers warm environments and mainly inhabits freshwater, such as lakes and streams. Negrilia fowleri can infect humans. 

When humans enter, they are infected. When swimming in the water, Negrilia fowleri enters the brain through the olfactory nerve of the nose, further destroying the brain tissue, causing "primary amoebic meningoencephalitis." 

However, if humans swallow contaminated water, they will not be infected. Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis is very fatal. 

In September, a 6-year-old boy in Texas and a 13-year-old boy in Florida were killed.


Where does Brain Eating Amoeba Survive and Multiply?

Brain-eating amoeba will multiply in warm waters and can survive in waters up to 45 degrees Celsius. CDC researchers pointed out that global temperature rise is likely to cause changes in the distribution of brain-eating amoeba.

However, the researchers also emphasized that the number of cases that occurred every year in the past has not increased sharply, with an average of 0 to 6 cases per year, and only 34 cases in the past 10 years.


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