The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported today the confirmation of a Naegleria fowleri infection in a Korean man returning from overseas.
The patient is a Korean man in his 50s who returned to Korea on Dec. 10 after a four-month stay in Thailand. He died on December 20.
He had symptoms of meningitis ( headache, fever, loss of language ability, vomiting, and neck stiffness). Genetic testing for free-living amoeba (Acanthamoeba, Balamuthia and Naegleria) was performed and Naegleria fowleri was confirmed post-mortem.
Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic amoeba which is a single-celled living organism. It can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals.
Infections can happen when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM (which destroys brain tissue) and is usually fatal. Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.
Naegleria fowleri infections are rare. Most infections occur from exposure to contaminated recreational water. Cases due to the use of neti pots and the practice of ablution have been documented.