‘Brain-eating’ amoeba case in Florida potentially tied to unfiltered water in sinus rinse

A person in Charlotte County, Florida, was recently sickened by a single-celled organism that can cause a rare, “brain-eating infection,” possibly as a result of rinsing their sinuses with unfiltered tap water, health officials reported (opens in new tab). No information was provided on the person’s condition, but the infection is typically fatal.

The organism, an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, typically lives in soil and warm fresh water and can sometimes grow in water tanks, heaters and pipes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in new tab) (CDC). In rare instances, it can infiltrate the human body and cause a disease of the brain and spinal cord called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), the CDC (opens in new tab) says. People can’t develop PAM by swallowing N. fowleri or by interacting with an already-infected person; rather, the amoeba enters the brain through the nose, by traveling through the nerve that relays information about smells from the nose to the brain. 

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