Does boiling water kill brain eating amoeba?

The so-called brain-eating amoeba has generated a powerful stir in societies where cases have recently been detected. It is a free-living amoeba that can survive and reproduce in nature without the need for a host, causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, an infection of the central nervous system that occurs when the amoeba colonizes it.

The fact that only thirteen people have survived to date and that it has a mortality rate of 98% is data that is shocking for the population and makes the widespread concern understandable. But you have to stay calm,

In this post we are going to answer the question ‘’Does boiling water kill brain eating amoeba?’’ we are going to tell you what it is, what are its causes and symptoms and how to treat the “fearsome” amoeba.

Does boiling water kill brain eating amoeba?

Yes, boiling water can kill the brain eating amoeba, but only if the temperature is above 113 ° Fahrenheit.

The United States has announced a new case of infection by ‘Naegleria fowleri’ and the world has focused on it, since the one known as ‘brain-eating amoeba’ is the cause of a condition that destroys brain tissue and that despite being very little It frequently has a 97% mortality rate in people who begin to show symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States Government Department of Health, ‘Naegleria fowleri’ is a living unicellular microbe or amoeba that is frequently found in the warm fresh water of rivers, lakes and hot springs of everyone but who can also live on land.

Thus, this microbe, which feeds on other microbes, can be found both in lakes or rivers and in pools that are poorly maintained with minimally chlorinated water or not treated with chlorine, in geothermal drinking water heaters, as it grows better in environments where the temperature is high, reaching up to 46ºC, and it can even survive for short periods in higher heat.

One of the most striking data is that Naegleria fowleri only affects the human body if it reaches the brain, and for that it must enter the body by penetrating the neuro-olfactory epithelium. That is, the amoeba enters through the nose and, upon reaching the brain, secretes a series of enzymes that degrade it and cause injuries and bleeding.

This in turn translates into other symptoms typical of meningitis such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness … and paralysis or seizures can be reached in its more advanced stages and before leading to death. The amoeba is able to colonize the brain quickly, degrading it and causing the death of the patient between 24 and 72 hours later.

Where does it come from and who does it affect?

The ‘Naegleria fowleri’ enters the human organism through the nose. Thus, through warm freshwater rivers or lakes, the microbe scales from the human nose to the brain, where it settles to destroy brain tissue. “The majority of people who contract an infection by ‘Naegleria’ die in a week”, indicates from Mayo Clinic.

However, the specialists of this same clinic assure that each year, “millions of people are exposed to the amoeba that causes the infection by ‘Naegleria’ but only some get sick”. “Health officials do not know why some people get the infection and others do not,” they add.

For this reason, the clinic’s specialists recommend avoiding masses of warm fresh water, using nose clips if you use the bath, and avoiding removing sediment when swimming in shallow warm fresh water. As they explain, these gestures could help prevent infection.

Once in the CNS, it causes inflammation, and in this way there is a release associated with cytotoxic agents that cause extensive tissue damage and necrosis. The destruction caused by this agent leads to the rupture of the erythrocyte membrane and the surrounding nerve cells.

The population at risk in this case is usually children under 12 years of age and the elderly. Children’s immune systems are still developing, so they are weaker. In the case of the elderly, their defenses are weaker and they are more exposed to the possible damage caused by the amoeba.

This type of amoeba usually has a greater presence and proliferates in warm and untreated bodies of water, such as lakes, lagoons, geothermal waters, untreated pools or rivers, and the cases of infection are related to recreational activities carried out in these waters of the type from diving into them, which allows contaminated water to enter through the nose and amoebas to reach the brain.

As is often the case with this type of disease, “they tend to affect children under 12 years of age more” or the elderly, but the reason is that the children’s immune system is still developing and their cribriform plate is more porous.

In the case of the elderly, their body’s defenses are weaker and this leads to less resistance to the damage caused.

Symptoms

The incubation period ranges from 2 to 8 days after infection occurs. The most common symptoms are: fever, chills, headache, photophobia, confusion, seizures, positive Brudzinski sign, positive Kerning sign, and even coma.

These symptoms give its name to the condition known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Cases of heart rhythm abnormalities and myocardial necrosis have also been detected.

The mortality rate is usually 95% and death can arrive between 7 and 10 days after infection.

The infection by ‘Naegleria fowleri’ cannot be transmitted from human to human and in its first days it presents symptoms similar to those of bacterial meningitis such as the following: 

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Sickness
  • Vomiting

Over the days, these can give way to other symptoms such as:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Confusion
  • Lack of attention
  • Loss of balance
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations

Treatment and control

It is usually possible to deal with diseases from several perspectives and at various times that can be summarized in two: before infection (prevention) and after (treatment).

In the first phase, you can travel through a wide range of options that range from specific international legislation, which in the case of the brain-eating amoeba is only fulfilled in Mexico and Australia through water control; investment in new drug research or control systems to detect it as soon as possible.

In the last cases that occurred, a culture system and PCR (molecular technique) were used in parallel.

If the second phase is reached and the person is infected, the most common treatment to combat the brain-eating amoeba is amphotericin B, an antibiotic and antifungal initially isolated from the bacterial species Streptomyces nodosus.

To be more specific, the treatment that is usually used is a cocktail of antifungals, antimicrobials and antiparasites that include this drug along with others such as rifampin or mitefosine.

The important thing is to stop the amoeba from advancing, because if this is not achieved, the patient ends up dying in a matter of days.

Amphotericin B has certain side effects for the human body, including toxicity to the liver and, mainly, the kidney. This toxicity is linked to the dose administered and the duration of treatment.

So, does boiling water kill brain eating amoeba?

The name “brain-eating amoeba” does Naegleria fowleri justice. Not long ago the latest victim was charged, a 69-year-old woman who had done a nasal wash with tap water. According to her clinical case, the woman suffered seizures and other important neurological manifestations.

Upon entering the hospital, diagnosed with a brain tumor, the doctors found a far more unpleasant scene (if that is possible): a brain infested with brain-eating amoeba. A month later, the patient passed away. How destructive is this microorganism?

According to the CDC, in the United States, only one person out of 128 has survived a Naegleria fowleri infection. In the world, it is estimated, there have only been about 300 diagnosed cases, of which only seven have been able to fight the infection effectively. 

This means that primary amoebic meningoencephalitis caused by this organism has a mortality of 98%.

Naegleria fowleri is a free inhabitant of fresh water, with a temperate temperature, although it is pyrophilous (it resists and lives well in heat), so it prefers waters above 32ºC.

Even so, it holds up quite well at a lower temperature in a state called a cyst. By improving the vital conditions, and the temperature, the amoeba passes into a state called trophozoite, after which the amoeboid phase comes, already in the human body.

‘Naegleria fowleri’, is it transmitted by tap water?

Normally, and in almost all cases, no, it is not possible. Luckily for everyone, this brain-eating amoeba is extremely sensitive to chlorine. The purification treatment completely eliminates their presence. That is why tap water is safe.

Unless there is some uncontrolled water entry point from the controlled distribution point to your tap, the water will be free of Naegleria. Unfortunately, in other recreational waters, sometimes the amount of chlorine is not enough. This could have been one of the main causes of some of the sad cases recorded.

The brain-eating amoeba, is it dangerous if you drink it?

No, it is not since this organism does not resist in our stomach. Yes, it is very resistant to temperature but not to the hydrochloric acid that our body secretes. Drinking these amoebas does not pose any danger since it does not affect the typical infective environment of this organism.

For Naegleria fowleri to be dangerous, it must enter through the nose, where it travels to the olfactory nerve. From there, it begins to move inward and migrates through the cribriform plate to the olfactory bulb of the brain, where it multiplies by feeding on nervous tissue.

So, the bacteria can die at high temperatures above 45 ° but, we can say that the amoeba bacteria will die if you boil the water. But in reality, unless you boil your bathing or showering water, you are at risk.

FAQS: Does boiling water kill brain eating amoeba?

Does boiling water kill amoebas?

Amebiasis affects all age groups, so to prevent it, it is recommended to boil the water, this is essential, because amoeba is quite resistant, no household filter is capable of eradicating this protozoan from water, therefore it is necessary to boil water for at least 10 minutes.

Can you get brain eating amoeba from tap water?

This type of amoeba usually grows in untreated water, such as lakes or some pools. One of the reasons why this amoeba is not usually transmitted through the tap is because of its low resistance to chlorine. 

Usually the water we consume in our homes is treated with this substance.

What temperature kills amoebas?

The amoeba can survive for extended periods of time in cold water above freezing and for hours at 50-65oC (122-149oF)

Does saline kill brain eating amoeba?

It stresses that neti pot transmission of brain-eating amoeba is excessively uncommon, and can be prevented as directed by using sanitized water and saline packets.

Does hydrogen peroxide kill amoebas?

In general, heat disinfection is the most efficient method of destroying Acanthamoeba, followed by systems of hydrogen peroxide where the deactivator of hydrogen peroxide is applied only after the ameba has been destroyed.

In this post we answered the question ‘’Does boiling water kill brain eating amoeba?’’ we have told you what it is, what are its causes and symptoms and how to treat the “fearsome” amoeba.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

References

Rapid Detection of Naegleria Fowleri in Water Distribution Pipeline Biofilms and Drinking Water Samples. (2018). Retrieved December 13, 2020, from Acs.org website: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es900432m

‌Yoder, J. S., Straif-Bourgeois, S., Roy, S. L., Moore, T. A., Visvesvara, G. S., Ratard, R. C., … Beach, M. J. (2012). Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis Deaths Associated With Sinus Irrigation Using Contaminated Tap Water. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 55(9), e79–e85. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cis626

‌Public Drinking Water Systems  | Naegleria fowleri. (2020). Retrieved December 13, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/public-water-systems.html

‌Barnett, N. D. P., Kaplan, A. M., Hopkin, R. J., Saubolle, M. A., & Rudinsky, M. F. (1996). Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis with Naegleria fowleri: Clinical review. Pediatric Neurology, 15(3), 230–234. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0887-8994(96)00173-7

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