How often do you get to welcome your new Brain-Eating Amoeba Overlords? Srsly.

Best. Infographic. Evar.

Brain-Eating Amoeba Kills Arizona Boy

PHOENIX -- A 14-year-old Lake Havasu boy has become the sixth victim to die nationwide this year of a microscopic organism that attacks the body through the nasal cavity, quickly eating its way to the brain.

"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases."

The amoeba typically live in lake bottoms, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment. Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose -- say, by doing a cannonball off a cliff -- the amoeba can latch onto the person's olfactory nerve.

The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up to the brain.

People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers, Beach said. In the later stages, they'll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes.

Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have been effective stopping the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said. "Usually, from initial exposure it's fatal within two weeks," Beach said.

In addition to the Arizona case, health officials reported two cases in Texas and three more in central Florida this year. In response, central Florida authorities started an amoeba telephone hot line advising people to avoid warm, standing water, or any areas with obvious algae blooms.

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19 Responses:

  1. yosh says:

    If you or someone you know has recently snorted lakewater, please press one....

  2. In light of this discovery, Texas and Florida make SO MUCH MORE SENSE.

  3. giles says:

    This is weak. Why can't it be something awesome like a shiny black beetle burrowing it's way into people's brains? Oh, look at me, I'm a big scary amoeba. Wooo, I'm reproducing asexually inside your skull. Whatever, that's no kinda Star Trek movie.

    • merovingian says:

      Would it be better if it reproduced sexually?

      • giles says:

        Yes, absolutely. And none of that nonsense with spores or whatever. Hot amoeba sex, all up in your frontal lobe. The thing eating your brain should be more horrible than your brain. Look at that infographic up there - if it was cougars eating bunnies, you think they'd show the bunny? No! They'd show a big slavering cougar, possibly with an erection. But when it's amoebae eating brains, we get a brain. They didn't even shop Pac-Man on there.

      • jwz says:

        That would technically be "squicking", I guess.

  4. merovingian says:

    Gosh, I had a stiff neck and kind of a headache yesterday. I'd better start having hallucinations and erratic behavior soon!

  5. pygmalion says:

    advising people to avoid warm, standing water, or any areas with obvious algae blooms

    So, basically, no more swimming in central and southern Arizona. Ever.

  6. temp_revenge says:

    Growing up in Florida, this was always a concern. Look, just don't swim in fresh water or ponds. It's easy.

  7. msjen says:

    This is seriously why I have not been swimming in a lake since I was a small child. Someone told me about this and I wouldn't go near a lake after that. Note three cases in central Florida -- I was right, dammit.

    And, shouldn't there be an advisory *before* you call the hotline?

  8. sparklydevil says:

    you mean people actually swim in lakes? ew, sick!

  9. jered says:

    I totally remember that season 2 episode of House. I would have figured it out right away... who says you never learn anything from TV?

    • drhoz says:

      except they got the symptoms totally wrong. You're dead long before the amoeba can get to your optic lobe.

  10. andr00 says:

    Attack of the microzombies!

  11. substitute says:

    Amoeba! Amoeba! Amoeba!

    We are scientists in our lab, etc.

  12. wildilocks says:

    This is old news to me - here in Western Australia when we were kids there were several high profile cases of amoebic meningitis and we were all terrified of swimming in water that wasn't the beach or a chlorinated swimming pool because of all the media hoohah!

  13. klooloola says:

    Maybe the docs were not expecting amoeba till it was too late.

    Most tropical doctors will always look out for amoeba or worms, tuberculosis and malaria.

    Metronidazole is the standard treatment for this
    It is also a very cheap drug.

    I always pack a supply of metronidazole and ciprofloaxacin while travelling the tropics.