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. Abdulla

    OH NO!!!! That picture looks like a portrait of the profit Mohommad!!

    October 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Please do not say that, the Muslims might get mad and burn down Karachi.

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

    Its no surprise that brain eating amoeba are killing Pakistanis. They are very well known for having S#!T for brains hehe.

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

      No Ben, the Amoebas are looking for Koran/Quran to chew on.

      October 11, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. DC

    It took 10 brains to fill up the brain eating amoeba?

    October 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. saywhat

    @Jb and@Benjamin
    You meant our own politicos I'm sure.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. HW7

    If these were Americans dying, the Pakistanis would be dancing in the streets.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. narnia

    Used to have these in Tennessee but they died out from lack of food.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheBigSarge

      we have pretty much eradicated them in florida as well.....well, actually, they starved to death after the last two presidential elections.


      October 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MIchele

    Easy way to get rid of this one. Gather up the amoebae, give them to a bunch of Republicans, and sit back and watch the germs die of starvation.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. diane

    Haters in America dance online. It's getting to the point of being a waste of time, energy and good will.to respond. Sorry world. Don't read and weep, just don't bother with commenting on anything. It's already been said 100 different ways by 100 different small minds with nothing worthwhile to add, unless you're on the CNN truth squad, bottom-feeding for new content to instill fear in the public.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheBigSarge

      i feel sorry for any loss of life, even the enemies of my country. what i hate worse is the fact that this is not a fast death, but a slow and lingering one. don't know if it's painful, but i can't imagine what it's like for the victim to know they are dying and that there is nothing that can be done about it.

      in my own case, i reenlisted (in afghanistan) during a time of war. we already know i have a brain amoeba too, just that the poor thing starved for lack of food.


      October 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TheBigSarge

    i figured the amobae would starve to death in the majority of their population....heck, i think the amoeba would starve to death if in the majority of cases wordwide. certainly the poor things would shrivel up and die, trying to life off of politicians. 🙂


    October 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Me

    Finally! An anti-Islam bio weapon!

    October 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • PAtriot


      October 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • TDM

      Except it's in OUR water here too, doof.

      October 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pablo

    Good job CIA, now do this about 1,000 more times.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Shane White

    They should be called Zombie Amoeba.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lee Oates

    It has already spread bigtime in conservative circles in the States.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cp

      Thats because it could not find a Liberal with a brain to feed off of...

      October 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • soulcatcher

      On another note, Mitt Romney's campaign is giving away free neti pots to the 47% to make up for his bad comments.


      October 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. anon

    "The disease is usually fatal." Of all the reported cases in the US only two people have survived. (based on CDC info.) I think the author is not giving this the emphasis it needs. People have gotten this from using tap water with their netti pot's. but more commonly from ponds or stagnant water exposure.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cp

    At least the everyone in the White House is safe from this!

    October 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
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