One thing which dreaded people the most while skimming through national or international news was doctors reporting deaths caused by 'meningoencephalitis' - a disease which doesn't have treatment even in this technical era. You could count on your fingers - the people who have survived the attack of this dreadful brain-eating amoeba. Over 50 decades after its initial case, only 3 people in america and a few others from different countries have managed to survive. Let's look keenly into what actual tantrums this amoeba plays in the human brain, resulting in 95% sure death of the affected patient in a week.
Naegleria fowleri - The Brain-Eating Amoeba:
One of the smallest life forms on earth which matches the defence mechanism of the human body is an amoeba. Naegleria fowleri is a microbe, a kind of amoeba - notorious for its creepy interest in the human brain.
Since the year 1950, around 150 cases of meningoencephalitis have been reported. It's the rarest of the rare conditions which have come into play only some cents in number within five decades. Meningoencephalitis is a condition where the patient is attacked by this peculiarly named parasite called Naegleria fowleri which belongs to the family of amoeba. Though being a very nonchalant parasite it is creepily eerie if one entered the human body.
Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba with a nucleus which looks pulpy and bulgy in its pseudo shape.
Their choice of residence is freshwater lakes, ponds, hot springs, and wells. If not taken hygiene seriously, they may feel welcomed in water pipes, swimming pools and fountains too.
The Three Phases of Meningoencephalitis
Phase 1 - Through the nasal cavity
If a person is heaving a sigh of relief in pool water in the hot summer; he must now get concerned to get out of the warm water. Because fowleri amoeba finds it suitable to survive in warm water. If the water gets into the nose and some fowleri cells with it, there are chances that the person would soon be on the dreadful radar of the parasite.
Naegleria fowleri enters the nasal cavity and there are chances that it may not slip away from the mucus. They are well-equipped to devour the antibodies. Through the nose are connected nerves - the olfactory receptors which end up in a smell hub called an olfactory bulb. These bulbs release a chemical which favours fowleri inherited through evolution.
Phase 2 - Entering the Brain
The olfactory bulbs release many chemicals which produce the smell. One of the most important chemicals is acetylcholine. Naegleria fowleri recognizes the smell and paves its own way to the olfactory bulbs defeating the body's defence system.
Once they reach the brain which ultimately takes 1 - 9 days of their trudging, they start eating nerve cells.
Naegleria fowleri deforms and rips into a dozen of bloodsuckers. They transform themselves into monster-mouth-like structures which start gobbling over the human brain.
Phase 3 - A Massacre initiates in the Brain
The mouth-like structure developed from these amoebae is called food cups. The human body's defence system starts releasing millions of immune cells, neutrophils, eosinophils and microglia to fight back this parasite.
To kill this parasite eosinophils erect deadly chemicals as barriers. That in turn harms the brain cells, while the amoeba goes unaffected. All the attempts of the immune system just go in vain, in fact recruiting more damage to nerves. Soon the nerves start leaking with this inflammation caused by the body's own defence mechanism.
The brain expands. Unable to expand further due to the skull barrier it compresses the brain stem. The brain stem is evident in the survival of the human body, as it controls breathing. This tragic event now comes to a halt after a week with the death of the affected person.
Symptoms of anaemic meningoencephalitis:
- Inability to concentrate
- Fatigue seizures
Cases of Brain-Eating Amoeba in India
Although it is a rare disease, it is the deadliest. In India, 15 cases of amoebic meningoencephalitis were reported to date. Among which was a 12-year-old boy who was diagnosed with the brain-eating parasite. The child from Kerala died within a week after diagnosis.
How to protect yourself from brain-eating amoeba
Naegleria fowleri is a free-living creature in fresh and stagnant water bodies. It mostly likes to feed on bacteria. So, you need not worry or be freaked out about it while playing in the water. Just make sure that the pool you entered is well-bleached and disinfected.