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. straighttalk

    what does this issue has to do w/religion? countries wiht lesser clean water are susceptible to such endemic. and even US cities have been affected. so it is not religion or people w/o brain. it is modern day curse because we have so many chemcial all over , and our immune system has gotten weaker inmho

    October 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cit

      Rightly said.

      October 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Hot Carl

    This is it, the start of the zombie apocalips. Dead but not dead, alive but not alive. Listen to them, children of the night. What sweet music they make. There's no place like home, there's no place like home. Oh the humanity.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    americans as always are the first to top the world in everything, they showed they had no brains when they voted bush into power in 2000 and again 4 years later.

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

      We'll see who gets elected next month. By re-electing Obama, your point will be proven.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • tjp44

      dear Bill, the one thing worse than being an idiot like you is to be a unique idiot stuck in a time warp...even obama the soon to be ex-president stopped blaming Bush a couple of years ago.......go play with your hula hoop moron!

      October 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. charming prince

    How do you idiots know the guy with this bacteria is a muslim or Christian or Hindu or ton of other non-muslims living in Pakistan

    October 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      99% people of Pakistan are Muslims....so only 1% chance for non-Muslims get this virus. O.k. folks nothing here, let's move on. I thought it is about brain-eating-Islam.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. LOL

    Lucky for Republicans...they never have to worry about this.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • tjp44

      at least the Republicans cannot be blemed for putting a moron in the White House from 2008 to 2012 ...no one's LOL ing about that now are they stupid?

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


      October 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobpitt

      At :tjp44
      At least the Moron you mentioned can spell “”Blamed” ”correctly..

      October 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      After reading your posts, Bob, I'd say that you aren't in any position to be correcting others' grammar or spelling.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. geeworker

    Brain-eating amoebas ? sound like a headline from a 1950 b rated science thriller

    October 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    Zombies?!?!?!?! No? Boring...

    October 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Name*Syed Ahmed

    Besides giving money to Pakistani government hand money to private sector how can take care this massacre job rather then killing innocent life

    October 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • dre

      Good one! I am sure it has run its course

      October 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Alfred E. Neuman

    At last the solution to the problem in the Muslim world. Time to bottle this stuff!

    October 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • DBS

      Yes, let's kill all of them because we know Muslim children, even though they have never really done anything are guilty none the less. And the women, certainly. Even though they have been oppressed by religious zealots (which do not exist in America), they too must die.

      October 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesse Pinkman

      It's what the "children" will grow up to be that we should be most worried about. Muslims are dangerous....especially Muslims from Pakistan. Corruption is rampant in Pakistan and the only laws that really matter there are Muslim laws.

      October 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyberhackster

      Brain eating??? - They're starving in Paki-stan

      October 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • DBS

      Certainly, Jesse, we should worry about what all children learn everywhere, even here. But to suggest killing them, even in jest... Really?

      October 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • saywhat

      @ Alfred E. Neuman

      You forget Sir and as @banasy reminded us, we have this bug in our waters too. so just pray that we remain safe instead of thinking of turning it into another bio-weapon.

      October 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bobpitt

    Wow... I thought Chlorine in the water was enough..

    October 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. justuandme


    October 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Johnna

    Funny, they only mention the 10 paki muslims who died from the amoeba infection, but nothing about the other 2 million that are also infected with no ill effects to date. LOL.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • EatYouAlive


      October 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jb

    There are brains in Pakistan?

    October 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heywood

      Yes, but only 10 that work

      October 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Not any more...

      October 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. yneemee

    Well... at least we know members of Congress are safe – the amoebas would starve to death if they eat brains

    October 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. EatYouAlive

    Brain-eating amoebas at Republican National Convention!

    The amoebas starved to death. Poor little guys.

    October 10, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • max3333444555

      its not republicans, its partisans from both parties....

      October 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
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