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. banasy©

    Yet another unseen thing to worry about...
    This is pretty awful.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. 66th Strategic Command & Operations Unit.

    Someones going to blame the Americans for it.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. saywhat

    Flesh eating bacteria here and now this over there. Are the bacteria working in tandem?
    No @James PDX, seems more like something from a 'secret govt project' sci-fi. CIA? bio-weapons lab somewhere? lol.
    Seriously though it is scary and needs attention from WHO and researchers everywhere.
    Good morning @banasy.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • seyedibar

      It seems much more likely that the bacteria is naturally occurring and that these people did not clean their neti pots properly before use. The large number represents the sudden increase in pot users.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank in Pensacola, FL

      Both are naturally occuring. The "scary" bit comes from CNN and other media sources wanting to get you all worked up so you'll be more likely to read their (inaccurate) stories and buy stuff.

      BTW, both are naturally occurring WORLDWIDE – USA, Europe, Middle East, Asia, etc. Not selective about who's flesh or brains they nibble on. Different standards and practices for water quality and for religious or personal custom do play a role in the chance these things can take hold and KILL (oops, got enthusiastic like I was a CNN reporter there...sorry). These are what are known as "opportunistic infections".

      N. fowleri infection risks and the mechanisms by which it occurs have been known for decades (since at least 1970).

      October 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. r

    u are just as filthier for saying that you filthy rat

    October 10, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • EatYouAlive

      Ah, the ignorant and uneducated all rolled into one!

      October 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jugnu

      maybe he just wants all the pakipussee for himself, so what is wrong with that?

      October 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. r

    for you to say such a coment means that your brain has been put in a wrong sole, and it is sad for you to even have a soul

    October 10, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank in Pensacola, FL

      Hey, next it will be "soul eating amoebas"!
      Only, how would you tell? It's kind of like the whole politician-brain thing...to get in office I think they have to agree to have the brain surgically removed along w/the soul.

      October 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    Wow, 10 people dead and nothing but stupid jokes and political BS. Stay classy, Internet.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • r

      Thank you Matt, for your smart comment, it is really a sad read to have seen such disgusting comments and cnn doing nothing about it

      October 10, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      Matt, Thanks for your statement! You are on target – let's be nice.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • norman

      The comments may not meet your standard of "classiness" , but whom are they hurting?

      October 10, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • NikkieFinn

      Thank you Matt! Here's hoping people in other countries do not read these blogs. Some of these comments are already an embarassment to the country. The illiteracy alone is enough to shame us.

      October 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Informed

      People get killed all the time and we still poke fun at them (see the Darwin Awards books). What's new and what's the harm?

      October 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. r

    another illiterate comment , done from those who have no ehtics , no sense of human thinking.. allah or jesus, or buddha, u are all brainwashed and have been fighting eachother insted of understanding to live with one another.

    your comments are a disgrace to cnn, someone should be filtering these discriminant and ignorant comments

    October 10, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • anon

      OK while I agree with you i disagree on one area. "your comments are a disgrace to cnn" Umm CNN has no shame or have you not read these discussions in the past?

      October 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Taskmaster

      r is the all wise Pootentate of Slumville. Open his head and find a hunk of monkey poo with a rotten spot.

      October 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mike

    Your comment is an even bigger disgrace. You are trying compare the violent and murderous Allah with non-violent and peaceful Jesus and Buddha. How dare you?

    October 10, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • seyedibar

      Seriously! The nerve of that guy, comparing a pedophilic murderous warlord with two folktale characters who never existed!

      October 10, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Dirty Rotten Hippie

      Allah....Really? You aren't very familiar with Gods, prophets and religions are you?

      October 10, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • robb

      these are not acts of a vengeful and belligerent god and are not important because of the way the victims contacted the sickness. There was nothing about these conditions which should have alarmed the victims about the risk.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • truthordare7

      Mike is right, Jesus and Buddha and Mahavir (Jain) never killed anyone in their lives nor implored others to kill. Please don't make ignorant generalizations like that. It makes me suspect you have the amoebas in your brain and it is finding it really hard to locate your brain too. lol

      October 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • James PDX

      Maybe Jesus was peaceful, but have you seen how many people his father murdered? Not to mention his father threatens every man, woman and child who do not do as he commands them to do.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • watchfuliiiii

      Yeah those peaceful crusades, the spanish inquesition, burning witches all I the name of Jesus. The self rightious BS never stops. The whole lot of you religious nuts are no better then Trekkes. At least they go home and know its all make believe.

      October 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Yeah, Religions are so violent. I mean, look at the peaceful atheistic Utopias that Stalin and Mao founded! Atheists never kill anyone!

      October 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • bud

      peaceful Jesus.... clap clap clap. Just goes to show how ignorant you are of your own religion.

      October 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • seyedibar

      How dare you compare one murderous warlord to two people from folklore who never existed?!

      October 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • max3333444555

      one invisible friend is as good as another

      October 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • American

      Read the history about christian's violent past you no good #oron.

      October 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • zometimer

      Hilarious. My god is better than yours. Get out from under that rock, get some help, you can get better little guy.

      October 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. r

    it is the water u ignorant fool, that is killing them, the water that has been contaminated. i mean come on people, are you really this ignorant, do we really have people like you in the world who write such comments. wake up man, and smell the coffee, its not about religon , its about yourself .. and the comments you make such as these define your character, that is what will take u too wherever we are all going... death is inevitable, but for you to comment like this, u will see far worse , or maybe see nothing at all. one things for sure, is that u are a disrespectful and a disgrace to humankind

    October 10, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • ana

      you need help, I mean, you seriously need help, you are making comments like this for nothing.

      October 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. r

    listen to yourself, who gives you the right to call allah not peacful, and jesus and buddha peacful, man .. look at your own people , killing their own children in backywards, in cinemas, in wherever, in norway, in anywhere u see innocent people being murdered.

    i am not with allah, not with jesus not with buddha, i am with me, I am MY OWN GOD .. and i do not speak like you do, how dare you categorize a religon as bad and another as good

    October 10, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Pope

      well, there you have it... "r" – A new God has come to earth. Did you bring the Brain-eating amoebas?
      Then you have no objection to getting rid of one faith.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just Me

      Allah = Satan

      Buddha = Satan

      Jesus Christ = Son of God, Jehovah.

      These people killing their children in backyards, cinema, etc. are Atheists and they don't know God or they wouldn't be killing like Muslims are, now would they?

      October 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • checi

      So you're Mormon?

      October 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • watchfuliiiii

      Are you going to defend Honor killings of daughters. Most of these Islamic countries treat women like farm animals.

      October 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Informed

      Islam is where Christianity was 200 years ago – a Barbaric and violent oppressive cult that strove to dominate through fear and violence and to enslave those who failed to follow.

      October 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |

      Your spelling is boarderline criminal.

      October 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      r! You Allah both should blow each other.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  11. saywhat

    Well @ pw1121
    Would you say the same if us humans on this soil of ours (never,never I pray) got this bug to fend off??
    I certainly hope that authorities in Pakistan who should be aided by more advanced countries, get things under control and are able to develop a cure for this terrible disease for the sake of humanity.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • seyedibar

      @saywhat Americans have been dealing with this for decades. It's why doctors don't recommend using neti pots or drinking or inhaling too deeply if you have old shower fixtures. People get it swimming all the time. It's a natural risk of being in proximity to still water.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • ensense

      The water in a neti pot is salted the chances of you getting it by that are much lower then getting it from a pool.

      October 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank in Pensacola, FL

      ensense – your statement about salted neti pot water being safer than chlorinated pool water is COMPLETELY FALSE and worse, potentially misleading to the people who read it. N. fowleri is a soil amoeba that can form hard, damage-resistant cysts when conditions are not favorable. So, if you salt contaminated water and let it sit long enough they'll just form cysts. If you then flush your nasal passages w/the contaminated water, the cysts can and do reopen when the conditions for survival of the amoeba are more favorable. Your nasal mucosa and olfactory nerve are PRIME conditions for good survival of the amoeba. So, salting the water won't kill 'em any more than chlorinated water UNLESS it's so harsh that you wouldn't use the water yourself. If it's salty enough (or chlorinated enough) to kill off YOUR cells, it can kill N. fowleri. Somehow I don't think you'd be using that much salt in your neti pot, or that much chlorine in your pool.

      If you don't know the specifics of the organism or the infection, please don't spread bogus information that could get people killed. KK?

      October 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. precious

    How did this happen???

    October 10, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. wendy

    What sickens me is this happened in the United States and there was no report of it, but this thing kills 10 people in pakistan and all if a sudden it hits CNN. Why wasnt this reported last year when two people died from it in Louisiana? And to you people who want to turn this into a Joke, grow up, this could mean something serious.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • curious

      I am not a big fun of cnn reporting ,,,but they did report it last year when it happened in the US ,,,,,maybe that was your week off from cnn

      October 10, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • hank10

      CNN, ABC News, LA Times all ran stories on the La story. http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/16/two-dead-in-louisiana-after-unclean-water-used-in-neti-pots/

      October 10, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • les

      Actually it was on the news about a week ago...They said to boil water or use distilled water when irrigating nasal passages.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Virologist

      It was reported last year. I remember it. It's rare, but people occasionally contract it. 10 seems like a large number of people to get this in one area.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • seyedibar

      You're right, it could be serious. So in the future, don't irrigate your sinuses. Or if you do, make sure you boil the water first and clean the pot sparkling clean after each use.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • checi

      It was in the news whether you were paying attention or not. A young lady in Florida died after swimming in a lake and contracting that parasite. It was a very sad story. But no need for outrage and conspiracy th

      October 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank in Pensacola, FL

      Are you kidding me? CNN and the news media are ALWAYS all over this when it happens in the USA. They can't WAIT to use words like "killer amoeba", "brain eating amoeba", 'deadly amoeba", and "kills", "dead", or "die" in their articles. Can't write 'em fast enough.

      You're just under- or misinformed. Maybe stop watching Fox for a while?

      October 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Abdullah719

    You missed this part of the article, I presume...

    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.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • ensense

      There are no reports of death in 2011 although there are reports of death in 2007 and 2006 all are from recreational pools nothing from neti pot. I doubt if you could get it from nati pot as the water in that is generally salted.

      October 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      There is no comparison between the USA and Pakistan. FYI, the Pakistanis have a lot more to die from such, drones, bombs, honor killings, stoning, and other Barbaric Killing. Pakistan is one proud country on this planet! Yeah Pakistan!

      October 11, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Crapola

      A moslem specific disease. There is a god after all...

      October 13, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  15. saywhat

    Good morning@ bobcat
    Sure hope not. We denizens of this planet have enough going against us of our own making.
    @ levi
    This serious and scary.We have had frightening cases of flesh eating bacteria here and this brain eating amoeba can spring up any where. Folks in this field should pay attention.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      It already has, saywhat, in Virginia, Florida, and Louisiana.
      Anywhere there's untreated water, as in our rivers and lakes.

      It was reported on; just because it wasn't reported on *this* blog doesn't mean it wasn't reported on at all.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
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