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. Sue Pearlative

    They should have checked the water at the GOP convention to see if this organism was present.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave NY USA

      Tampon screwed in a little too tight today, Sue?

      October 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Hide Behind

    If is already on our water ways the approaching warming trends will only aid its spread.
    Name one municipality that does not have at least a few days per year whose water supply is not properly treated.
    One day in a major municipality =?

    October 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tom Scott

    I knew Islam had a biological origin...a brain-eating amoeba.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. b-guy

    It seems this 'r' guy is pretty illiterate. That probably explains why he doesn't seem to know anything about gods or religion.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JonathanL

    This is a ritual? Now we know how to win a war with pakasatan – fill the water with brain eating amoebas (how do you fit a brain into an amoeba – are their brains that small?

    October 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Royalreenie

    I think this is something that should be spread throughout all of the middle east!

    October 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dave NY USA

    "Brain-eating amoebas kill 10 in Pakistan"
    Wonder how they would affect our brain-dead Congress.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hide Behind

    Here is an interesting stat by WHO and Indiasown Health Dept.
    It is not teuly known how many die in that country each year.
    It is estimated that over 80 % of those that do never were seen by a proffesional medical facility or a licensed doctor and relied onherbal or local marets for medications.
    Hardly any clibics have diagnostic capabilitys wether they be funded byGov or NGO's.
    Ina land that sells itsfemales and aborts without supervision what we inUS find "normal" is almost unknown except by a minute portion of its population.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Alex

    So how do we slip this ameoba into the Taliban's water supply. Though I doubt anyone would notice if their brains were eaten. It is not like they are using them.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dilip Raghead

    Couple of things come to mind reading this:
    Where did this amoeba find 10 brains in Pakistan to eat in the first place
    Where do I sign up for a donation so we can send planes loaded with cases of bikinis and speedos to Pakistan?

    October 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. moose1

    Now we know what the problem is with Muslims!! Their brains are being eaten by zombie amoebas!!! I knew it couldn't be the religion!!!

    October 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Hide Behind

    @Watchfiliiii Andyou have a better way to control the masses
    shall we exchange religions methos by say genocide, euthanasia, or selective genetic means.
    just how shall it be done so that the whole world will fit one Empirical Modelof ciilized living.
    Most importantly. who decides?

    October 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MissFitz

    Those poor amoebas...they must be starving to death over there. Lets clone them and quick.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jt_flyer

    I'm surprised there is enough gray matter in the entire country of Pakastan to feed a single ameba.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hide Behind

    I oft wonder why some of those who profess to be holy and are quick to judge those in certain foreign lans as unworthy of their Gods protectionor inclusion especially when they know not the indivoduals.
    Why was their Jesus choosing thesewords?

    October 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zack Gimbel

      You sir need to learn to spell before you enter the country. This is gibberish that nobody cares about.

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