October 10th, 2012
09:59 AM ET

Brain-eating amoebas kill 10 in Pakistan

A waterborne, brain-destroying species of amoeba has killed 10 people in Karachi, Pakistan, this year, prompting local water officials to increase the amount of chlorine in the city’s water supply and advise residents to use sterilized water when performing a Muslim ritual which involves cleansing the nostrils.

Misbahuddin Farid, managing director of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, said the origin of the amoebas had not been determined, according to a report in the Dawn newspaper.

Naegleria fowleri

The amoeba, known by the scientific name Naegleria fowleri, is virtually impossible to detect in the water and its presence in humans is determined by spinal tests, according to information on the water board’s website.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba causes a severe brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. The disease is usually fatal.

The amoeba most commonly enters the body through the nasal passages and usually infects people who have been swimming in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, according to the CDC.

But it can exist in improperly chlorinated swimming pool or heated tap water, the CDC says.

Only one of the 10 victims of the current outbreak in Pakistan had visited a swimming pool, according to another report from the Dawn newspaper, so authorities are focusing on the Muslim ablution ritual, or waddu.

“Special care should be taken when doing waddu, brushing teeth or cleaning the nasal area,” the water board’s website says.

Two people in the U.S. state of Louisiana died from the amoeba last year after apparently contracting it when rinsing their sinuses with a neti pot, a small vessel used to pour warm water into one nostril and out the other.

Three other Americans died last year after contracting the amoeba while swimming.

The Karachi water board said it would increase chlorine content in the water supply for the city of more than 15 million people after tests of more than 900 water samples taken around the city found 22% to be unchlorinated or have insufficient levels of the chemical, according to a report in the Dawn newspaper.

Saghir Ahmed, minister of health for Sindh state, in which Karachi is located, said residents should be safe if they followed the water board’s advice.

“There is no reason to panic and citizens should stay calm and take precautions,” Ahmed was quoted by Dawn as saying.

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Filed under: Health • Pakistan
soundoff (312 Responses)
  1. Summer

    Boil water, ban religion.

    October 13, 2012 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Rasheed

      Boil water and ban bigots.

      October 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hey

    to good lmao

    October 13, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. Crapola

    I wonder how it would do on conservative republican brains? I know its also slim pickins but one can only hope.

    October 13, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. patw


    October 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rasheed

      My message to you the day your mother dies: "So?"

      October 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mario

    Does the amoeba look like a guy riding a tractor to you?

    October 13, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. unowhoitsme

    Rude comments...people just lost their loved ones. Never wish death upon anyone. Condolences to the families.

    October 14, 2012 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
  7. ISRAELS weaponsofmassdestruction

    Sounds like the Mossad has had there hands in the pakistans water supply again... Good Job IDF you guys made a super weapon that kills only middle eastern people yet ? sounds like yall have......

    October 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rasheed

      Israel is probably not involved in this one, although there were serious questions raised about the work of certain scientists at the Ness Ziona biolab in Israel, who cooperated with apartheid era scientists from South Africa, looking for ways to kill blacks specifically, in order to find ethnobiological weapons to kill Palestinians, but turned out they were all Semites – Jews and Arabs alike – too genetically similar.

      October 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rasheed

    There should be no room for racists on this board. Come on CNN, don't be complicit.

    October 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. An Atheist In Florida

    One more reason to give up the silly notion of religion. So tell me...is this one religions way of culling the herd? Keep up the good work.

    October 14, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Irony

    Brain-eating huh? That's the absolute LAST type of bacteria I'd expect out of a place like that.

    October 16, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. GreenPhotog

    Must be a terribly painful way to die. Sorry for those folks. I've met some awfully nice- and smart!- Pakistanis. May God, who is really just us, imo, bless them.

    October 16, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. How Rude

    Rasheed, thousands of Americans would be willing to kill you over those comments. If you think that you or any of your kind of extremists have any power over the US, you are wrong. The US have enough rescources and allies to be able to exterminate any person who threatens our citizens. The only reason that our people have been killed by terrorists like you is cowardly suicide attacks that even the devil would be ashamed to do.

    October 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • How Rude

      commenting on Rasheed's "then you would like to enjoy another 9/11" post.

      October 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. How Rude

    Unneccesarry and rude. Think before you post

    October 17, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. eat stop eat

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post. Thanks for supplying this information.

    February 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Vishnu Sharma

    Now we know how to kill Pakistanis by making these microbes our friends.

    Indian RAW agents will cause widespread deaths in Karachi with the help of these microbes.

    April 11, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
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