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. Brenda G

    Oh goodness. This is an illness, not a curse, and it is the amoeba that is not controlled. Boil the water, and stay out of fresh water ponds and streams unless you have one great immune system.m

    October 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alfredo

    Unfortunately this won't work on the Taliban because they don't have brains. Too bad....

    October 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lauren

    I figured Pakistan was a country that was completely and 100% safe from a brain-eating anything

    October 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. midnitejax

    My condolences to the families of the only ten people in Pakistan who had brains.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Total Non Sense

    The Idea Weapon again's Muslims!

    October 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. caesarbc

    This is awesome!!!! For now... just wait! Just like drones, they will be used against us sooner or later.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wile

    This is impossible! There is no food source in Pakistan.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. David Stone

    Update: Brain eating organisms dying of starvation in Pakistan after finding few victims with sufficient brains to feed them.

    October 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. SoundsGood123

    Ugh, can't these amoebas eat any faster?

    October 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bills Cat

    It's not nice to mess with Mother Nature. How many atomic tests and disasters, tons of pollutants and millions of pounds of antibiotics helped create this little nasty, hmm? Sure, it's all fun and games until somebody dies from a brain eating amoeba!

    October 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • VladT

      I am pretty sure all our "manmade evils" did not magically create a new brain eating amoeba. They have existed for quite a while now. Nice try to segue into a "we are terrible" conversation, though

      October 11, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Bills Cat

      More of a rhetorical statement or pause for thought than ain't-we-terrible, Vlad. All that stuff I mentioned is a done deal anyhow. No doubt in my mind there exists many other startling surprises for mankind.

      October 11, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • T-Bone

      This is the best news I heard in a while. Islam couldn't save them nor the joke puppet Mohammad.

      October 11, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. cjbigcat

    These amoebas will start killing each other off soon and claim Allah told them to do it. They will be awarded 19 virgin brain cells when they reach Amoebas Heaven.

    October 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • 11STI

      That's funny.

      October 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cjbigcat

    I vote Naegleria fowleri for president.

    October 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cjbigcat

    When you live in a desert, you get bored. When you get bored, you join a cause. When you support terrorists, you cost your government money to fight these terrorists. When your government cant afford to clean the water supply, you get dirty water. When you drink and bath in the same water, you consume Naegleria fowleri. When you consume Naegleria fowleri, you die. Don't get bored and consume Naegleria fowleri.

    October 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • k.madhukar

      You are right.Allah the most merciful is looking the other way fed up with the atrocities being committed by the jihadis in His name.

      October 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Obama Mama

    Okay we have injections, canalopes, spinach, and tomatoes killing people in the US of ecoli and menigitis. We all have flaws in detecting certain bacteria's and diseases. Be humble it could happen to anyone.

    October 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      It happened here, too, Obama Mama.
      It's in our rivers and lakes, also.
      Americans have died of this very same thing, including some in Louisiana. Virginia and Florida; one being a 16 year old girl....
      Something people have conveniently forgotten in their haste to make sick jokes about those who died in Pakistan.

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

      What will those wild and crazy kids over at CIA come up with next?

      October 11, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. wealthcoaches

    It's surprising those amoebas didn't die for lack of sustenance...

    October 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      Be nice.

      October 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
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