The free-living amoeba, Naegleria fowleri was first discovered in the 1960s by Dr. Malcolm Fowler and Dr. Rod Carter in Australia.
Several hundred cases have been documented worldwide with few survivors.
According to an El Pais report Saturday (computer translated), a 10-year-old girl from the province of Toledo has recovered from the first case recorded in Spain of primary amoebic encephalitis (PAM).
It is believed the girl contracted the amoeba from a public heated pool in the town of Torrijos (Toledo).
The girl was admitted at the end of March at the Virgen de la Salud public hospital in Toledo with symptoms of meningitis: severe headache, fever and neck stiffness. The first analysis ruled out a viral or bacterial origin and the doctors faced the challenge of identifying an unknown pathogen in Spain.
They achieved this in collaboration with the National Center for Microbiology (CNM) in a difficult process that also involved the University Institute of Tropical Diseases and Public Health of the Canary Islands, of the University of La Laguna, a reference in this field.
“They are very complex tests, which require adequate samples with viable amoebae, experience in this type of crop, molecular tests … It was the first time we identified Naegleria fowleri in a human case and it has been a challenge “, admits Isabel de Fuentes Corripio, head of unit in the CNM.
The pediatricians of the hospital applied the treatment of first choice according to the scientific literature: amphotericin B.
The diagnosis “was a great surprise that forced us to open all the research lines until we reached the focus of infection,” admits Manuel Tordera. The study of contacts – which tracks the life of a patient in recent weeks – revealed that the girl went weekly to the pool. “We took samples of the water and the analyzes confirmed the presence of the amoeba in the small pool and in the large one,” he adds.
Anastasio Arevalillo, mayor of Torrijos, remembers the arrival of the Public Health technicians. “It was at the beginning of June. We went into shock. Water control is carried out electronically and is all registered within the legal limits, “he explains. The regulations of Castilla-La Mancha, practically the same in all communities, establishes that the water in swimming pools for public use must be between 24 and 30 degrees and chlorine levels of 0.5 to 2 parts per million. “We closed the pool immediately. We emptied it, we did works, we changed filters … We have spent more than 100,000 euros and we are waiting for the Board to give us the green light to open it, “the mayor continues.
“We have raised the chlorine level up to 5 parts per million in the new water. If we confirm that the pool is free of the amoeba, it can reopen when the chlorine drops to the established levels, “says Tordera. “In the future, it may be necessary to raise the chlorine levels somewhat and lower the temperature,” he adds.