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. juan

    Did he died?

    October 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • no

      Be you stupid?

      October 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ken reed

    Don't clean your nose out with tap water; use a nasal cleansing solution instead. This is article is very interesting.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. krejaton

    Wait, these poor amoeba actually found 10 brains in Pakistan???

    October 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jeanie tedford

    10 Persons have died!! How can you post such horrible things about someone's son or daughter or mother or father–may peace be with all the families. and i appologize for some of these horrible people that have no souls--

    October 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Prefection

    Uh, yeah, people. This story is about amoebas. And people who are dead because of the amoebas.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. haankzmith

    Paki's don't have brains.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kanoorani

    Very sad to see comments targeting religious beliefs. Please guys, try to be civilized, you all belong to good families. Pray for those who died due to this virus, may their souls rest in peace.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. hooah

    It's already swept thru DC

    October 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jeremyhornephd

    When it comes to finding brains in fundamentalist Muslims (particularly the Taliban and Al Qaeda), I think those amoebas will have to be thinking about a starvation diet. Now, if scientists could figure out a way of genetically altering those amoebas so they could attack another part of the body and go after this species of so-called human, we'd be in good shape. The decent, bright people in Pakistan (and there are MANY) need to be protected.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rick

    Not going to lie... Despite the extremely isolated cases... this osunds pretty horrible.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank in Pensacola, FL

      Yep. You are right on target. The person goes from healthy, to flu-like, to "brain fever" encephalitis in about 48-72 hours. IF you are lucky and guess what it is in time, and IF you are lucky and the cure works, it can leave you with severely damaged kidneys.

      'T'ain't no fun.

      October 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • siva

      Hmm – this is interesting – as until this time, I was thinking there are no brains for people in Pakistan as they started punishing young kids.

      October 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RevNowWhileWeCan

    Still less than the US drone strikes.

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

    I didn't know Muslims had to wash their nostrils. I knew they had to pray 5 times a day, not eat pork, not drink alcohol, not gamble, and not charge or receive interest on loans, not have photographs, not own dogs, not yawn, not wear the color yellow,but I didn't know they had to wash their nostrils...

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


      October 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • rstlne

      No dogs? Really? I wonder why. There are few things in this world better than a good dog! Seems to me like they are missing out there.

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

      tracy there is nothing mention in quran and hadith(the words of prophet mohammad) that muslims should not wear yellow,take photos and Not to have Dogs.if any one chose to do that,thats his/her personal decision.the rest you mention is alright,but not the three mentioned above.

      October 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. And

    And in other news........Brain eating amoeba infest republicans.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank in Pensacola, FL

      Hmmmm...methinks there is are mutually exclusive conditions in that statement...
      Brain eating amoeba eats...brains!
      Politicians must have brains for amoeba to eat.

      Doesn't follow.

      October 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drez

      That comment by "And" is absolutely hilarious!!!

      October 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      and they starved!!

      October 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • real_personn

      ha ha – you are funny "And"

      October 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hitech

    A friend of mine, I forget what carrier he was on, took Liberty in Karchi. He told me that place was just a disease waiting to happen.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Elsie-eye

    Hmmm....maybe that explains the mindless actions of the Taliban in Pakistan. The amoebas ate their brains.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
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