Brain-eating “amoeba”

August 19, 2011 • 4:42 am

Well, it’s billed as an amoeba, but it’s really a protist, Naegleria fowleri (Naegleria is in the family Vahlkampfiidae, while true amoebas are in the family Amoebidea and the genus Amoeba). But it’s a bad protist, for it causes infections that, while rare, are nearly always fatal.  Three people have already died this year.

As CNN reports, the infection is water-borne: the protist enters the noses of swimmers, and then lodges and multiplies in their brains, causing death by consuming the neurons of the frontal lobe, leading to swelling of the brain.  Only one person is known to have survived the infection, so it’s nearly as deadly as rabies.

Note that in the video at the link, the mother of a 16-year-old girl who died from the parasite calls her loss a “blessing in disguise,” for the daughter was an organ donor (something we should all be doing), and the death has not only alerted people to potential dangers of the protist, but also has brought people to religious faith, made them go to church and get baptized, and inspired them to believe in God. It’s understandable that a distraught mother would want to find something positive in the death of her child, but how such a senseless tragedy inspires people to turn to God is beyond me.  Not only did He take a young girl for no obvious reason, but He created the parasite that killed her.  I’ve written a hymn to explain:

The parasite, the flies that bite

All came from Adam’s Fall;

The protists that consume the brain—

Yes, the Lord God made them all.

Life stages of Naegleria fowleri. Left to right: cyst, trophozoite (reproductive feeding stage), and flagellate

h/t: Chris

30 thoughts on “Brain-eating “amoeba”

  1. God’s to do list

    1: Make people with defective organs (check)
    2: Make a deadly brain infection (check)
    3: Kill a 16 year old girl so that her good organs can be harvested (check)

    Oh the cleverness of me! Is there no problem I cannot solve?

    1. “so that her [defective] organs can be harvested” –fixed.

      Why not just skip the “infection” and fix the organs? Sheesh. God really likes ‘half-ass’ solutions.

    1. Yes, what you say is true, but what I meant in the first sentence is that this beast is not an amoeba but a non-amoeba protist.

  2. Well, you don’t really have to deal with the death of loved ones if you can imagine them up in heaven. Avoiding the fear and anxiety of death is the major selling point of almost all religions.

  3. Jerry,You must be a Monty Python fan?

    “All things dull and ugly, All creatures short
    and squat, All things vile and cancerous, The Lord God made the lot”

  4. For a second, after I read that she was an organ donor, I was touched. I thought the mother, even though she had lost her daughter, realized that her loss had prevented others from suffering similar losses and as such was “a blessing in disguise.” Then I continued reading and saw this wasn’t a display of human compassion and unity, but of religious lunacy. However, I’m still touched, albeit not from emotion but from my palm hitting my face.

  5. I was taught as a child that all of the “bad bugs” were twisted creations of Satan made by him tinkering with the “good bugs.” God won’t stop him, because of, you know, free will and all that.

    If God intervened early and stopped all this evil nonsense, then evil might crop up again at some point in the distant future. The charade has to run its course to ensure that nobody will ever sin again, for all eternity.

  6. Some years ago, the same thing happened to the water at Bath Spa. You can still drink the water in the Pump Room, but the source of the infection was either cleaned up or by-passed. The water still tastes quite disgusting, however.

  7. Well gosh golly, I guess if someone had shot her daughter in the head, that would be a blessing in disguise too, wouldn’t it? Anything that brings more people to Jebus is good.

        1. Now that’s the understatement of the hour!

          Get much more than a couple miles away from mean sea level and you can’t survive without extraordinary protective measures that can’t be sustained without constant resupply. The Earth’s radius is about 4,000 miles and the radius of the observable universe is about 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles…you do the math.



  8. If more people are baptised, more protists will swim up more peoples noses and more organs will be available!

    All part of the big guy’s plan, clearly.

  9. Monty Python:

    All things dull and ugly,
    All creatures short and squat,
    All things rude and nasty,
    The Lord God made the lot.
    Each little snake that poisons,
    Each little wasp that stings,
    He made their brutish venom.
    He made their horrid wings.

    All things sick and cancerous,
    All evil great and small,
    All things foul and dangerous,
    The Lord God made them all.

    Each nasty little hornet,
    Each beastly little squid–
    Who made the spikey urchin?
    Who made the sharks? He did!

    All things scabbed and ulcerous,
    All pox both great and small,
    Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
    The Lord God made them all.

  10. Thanks a lot for reminding me.

    I did a post mortem on a 12 year old boy 26 years ago who died from amoebic meningitis, and it still causes me nightmares.

    The clinicians insisted on the necropsy being performed on the same day as the boy died, and … No, I don’t want to think anymore of this …

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