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. please grow up

    Brain eating bacteria aren't going to live long in Pakistan.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bad Eyes

    Okay, where's the picture of the Amoeba? Why do you show us the picture of the guy riding on the back
    of a bicycle?

    October 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. cyg

    It's a CIA plant-probe...literally.

    October 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DontPretend

    Some call it a brain-eating amoeba, some call it liberalism.

    October 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Franky

    I was going to comment but then figured somethings are left better unspoken.

    October 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cpc65

    Zombie amoebas! Cool!

    October 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Paul

    That must be about all the brains they have in pakistan

    October 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. safe

    some of the horrible few people here who wrote negative comments about the deaths of 10-people,needs to go to uni or school again,They seems to be on drugs while writing such comments.Cuz they use news of human deaths for religious or racism purposes.

    October 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. willy

    Horrible stuff. I read that the Muslims have a certain ritual that sometimes includes sniffing water into the nostrils and blowing it back out. Apparently some water is permitted and some is not permitted to be used. Guess they should make an edit and say only use water that has been boiled and then cooled.

    October 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rohug

    The amoeba would definitly starve to death in DC as far as that goes most of the people in this blog would cause the poor things to starve.

    October 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name s kel

      yeah it would die in DC, but only to the no comprimise congress and the fools from the other states that elect them!

      October 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Phartum

    Is Allah sending us a message here? I must admit I am a bit confused. Are God and Allah brothers, cousins or what? Is Jupiter their father and Zeus their grandfather? I would really like to see a family tree and how well do they all get on with each other?

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

      The thing is God is there even though greedy power hungry churches steal every message he/she gives us. God doesn't interfere, We are supposed to prove ourselves worthy. God is not Santa Claus.

      October 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • MAT

      Wait and you will find out soon enough. All your question will be answered.

      October 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nick

    really, i think the ameoba died of starvation wanting some brain 🙂

    October 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thunder

      Now that's funny

      October 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Portland tony

    This amoeba would die out if it ever got in the Potomac. Nothing to eat!

    October 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • little mister©

      I eat amoebas.

      October 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TheBob

    Let's hope these amoeba zero in on Taliban "brains". In a year's time, no more Taliban. How sweet will that be?

    October 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Gary

    Please tell me we can put this in the Taliban water supply.

    October 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • John P.

      It already is, didn't read the article?

      October 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
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