Louisiana’s Bossier Parish Water Tests Positive for Brain-Eating Amoeba (Ameba) Naegleria Fowleri

A portion of a water system that serves part of south Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has tested positive for a brain-eating amoeba, according to the operator of the water system, Sligo Water System.

Officials say Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the brain-eating amoeba, was found last week in the Sligo Water System during a routine test done by the state Department of Health. The system was notified of the positive result on Friday, said Andy Freeman, the operator of Sligo Water System. Residents along Sligo Road from Highway 71 to Red Chute Bayou were at risk. The area is east-southeast of Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana and Barksdale AFB — home of 2d Bomb Wing assigned to the Air Force Global Strike Command’s Eighth Air Force and almost 50 B-52H Stratofortress bombers.

The positive test for the organism in the water came from water Sligo had purchased from Bossier City, Freeman reported. Sligo has since disconnected from Bossier City water and is now using well water to supply those customers. Freeman said the Sligo Water System normally serves water users with well water, but drought conditions caused the need to purchase water from Bossier City, located on the Red River. Rain was below normal from May 2018 to early September 2018 in the area.

The amoeba Naegleria fowleri — a one-celled organism –causes a rare and often fatal infection of the brain. Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in warm freshwater and soil in southern states, and usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Recently Naegleria fowleri has caused infections in northern states. Therefore, recreational water users anywhere in the United States should be aware that there will always be a low level risk of infection. The risk is elevated by diving or jumping into open water, submerging the head under water, or engaging in activities that cause water to go up the nose.

Infections are not possible from simply swallowing contaminated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COMMON SENSE RISK REDUCTION
Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater.

Avoid putting your head under the water in hot springs and other untreated thermal waters.

Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature.

Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

These recommendations make common sense but are not based on any scientific testing since the low numbers of infections make it difficult to ever show that they are effective (CDC).

Olfactory transfer is the reason for the vulnerability of infection from water introduced into the nose. A small area of nerve cells of the olfactory epithelium — involved with chemoreception and the sense of smell — connect directly into the olfactory bulb of the brain, which provides a direct connection between the brain and the external environment for the sense of smell.

Other areas of the nasal lining are well vascularized without a direct connection to the brain. There is a single epithelial cell layer that connects directly to blood circulation, but not the brain. Small molecules or small organism can enter systemic blood circulation, which hinders entrance to the brain because of a blood-brain barrier. The olfactory area is sort of an achilles heel area where Naegleria fowleri can travel directly to the brain via nerve cells in the olfactory nerve — the first of 12 cranial nerves. In the olfactory nerve, Naegleria fowleri begins eating and multiplying along the way toward the brain — consuming red blood cells, white blood cells and tissue along the way.

Hence, the Naegleria fowleri single-cell organism is commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba” or “brain-eating ameba” (ameba is the U.S. English spelling). Naegleria fowleri can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The ameba is commonly found in warm freshwater (e.g. lakes, rivers, and hot springs) and soil. Naegleria fowleri usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the ameba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal. Infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, such as lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water is introduced to the nasal passage from other water sources, such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water.

Naegleria fowleri is a heat-loving (thermophilic) organism, and grows best at higher temperatures up to 115°F (46°C) and can survive for short periods at higher temperatures. Naegleria fowleri is less likely to be found in the water as temperatures decline. The ameba can be found in lake or river sediment at temperatures well below where one would find the ameba in the water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the 10 years from 2008 to 2017, 34 infections were reported in the United States. Thirty people were infected by recreational water, three people were infected after performing nasal irrigation using contaminated tap water, and one person was infected by contaminated tap water used on a backyard slip-n-slide.

Initial symptoms of PAM start about 5 days (range 1 to 9 days) after infection. The initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about 5 days (range 1 to 12 days).

In September 2018, a 29-year-old New Jersey man died from Naegleria fowleri infection after visiting the BSR Cable Park’s Surf Report in Waco, Texas.

Also, the “brain-eating” Naegleria fowleri protozoan was previously discovered in Ouachita Parish’s North Monroe water system and Terrebonne Parish’s Schriever water system during routine testing in July 2017.

Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) infection by Naegleria fowleri and possibly other single-cell organisms is a risk around the world.

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See also …

CDC | Parasites — Naegleria fowleri — Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) — Amebic Encephalitis: Swimming

CDC | Parasites — Naegleria fowleri — Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) — Amebic Encephalitis: General Information