‘Brain-eating’ amoeba case in Florida may be linked to unfiltered water in sinus rinses

A person in Charlotte County, Florida, was recently sickened by a single-celled organism that can cause a rare “brain-eating infection,” possibly as a result of flushing their nipples with unfiltered tap water, health officials reported (opens in a new tab). No information was provided about the person’s condition, but the infection is usually fatal.

The organism, called amoeba Naegleria fowleritypically lives in soil and warm fresh water and can sometimes grow in water tanks, heaters and pipes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in a new tab) (CDC). In rare cases, it can infiltrate the human body and cause a disease of the brain and spinal cord known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). CDC (opens in a new tab) say. People cannot develop PAM by swallowing N. fowleri or by interacting with someone who is already infected; instead, the amoeba enters the brain through the nose, traveling through the nerve that relays smell information from the nose to the brain.

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