Immune response may be the real killer after infection with N. fowleri
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine/Science Source
On July 9, just a few days after swimming in Minnesota’s Lake Minnewaska, 14-year-old Hunter Boutain was dead. Doctors believe the culprit was the water-dwelling amoeba called Naegleria fowleri. Most people know it by its other name: The brain-eating amoeba.
It’s the stuff of horror films — the tiny amoeba crawls up the nose to the brain where it wreaks havoc, ultimately killing 97 percent of its victims. But while the amoeba is certainly devastating for the small number of people it infects, calling it a “brain eater” may not be quite right. The immune system’s response to infection — not the amoeba itself — is the real killer, some scientists suspect.
The single-celled N. fowleri, which thrives in warm freshwater, is “destructive, nobody doubts that,” says Abdul Mannan Baig, a physiologist at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, where numerous N. fowleri infections have