Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

by Mol Smith Dec. 2013


Our youngsters have never had a better time for being entertained by movies which fictitiously generates futuristic dystopian worlds of vampires and zombies, or mass-extinction through air-born viruses. Often the vampires and zombies are created due to an infection. I thought it might be interesting to consider some of the real invaders of micro-organic forms, and the way they may invade our bodies in exotic ways.
Most people are aware of Malaria, and the vector (carrying, spreading-agent) for that being the mosquito. But what about so many others?

Brain-eating Amoeba 

 Image is wiki commons licence.
Trophozoite stage of the amoeba.


Naegleria fowleri: what the media call 'The Brain-Eating Amoeba'. A brilliant and evocative name, yes? This little critter is absolutely deadly. Fortunately, it likes warm fresh water to thrive, but can survive at lower temperatures (less likely to be an infection issue), in soil, warm springs, and actually in distilled water if it is introduced to it.

It can transform itself and exist as 3 distinctly different forms (but only 1 form at any given moment of time). It is (as far as I know) one of three protozoa which can infest a human through the nasal cavity by entering the brain:
{wiki links}- Naegleria fowleri, Balamuthia mandrillaris, Sappinia diploidea are the three.

At first, the idea that a little swim in some clear looking fresh water, may result with a few of these crawling up your nose and killing you is a tad alarming. Media publications love headlines and people just get hooked on the drama rather than the detail. Yes.. they do live in warm fresh water, but they cannot swim up your nose and into your brain with any ease. Diving into fresh water or doing summersaults while under the surface, creates pressure jets which drive water deeply inside the nostril and up towards the brain. There is no blood-brain barrier at the top of the nasal cavity as your smelling nerves are directly attached to the brain and extend down into the cavity.

This amoeba can exist in different forms. When water is lacking, it can encyst through the process of desiccation
(dry out), or if water temperatures fall below 10 degrees Centigrade.

Ionic changes in their environment, placed in distilled water, for example will push the amoeba into transforming into its flagellate
state within a few hours.

First known to cause parasitic infestation of the brain in 1965 by  Australian Physicians M. Fowler and R. F. Carter.

The protozoan can exist in: Warm lakes, ponds, and rock pits, Mud puddles, Warm, slow-flowing rivers, especially those with low water levels, untreated swimming pools and spas, untreated well water or untreated municipal water,

hot springs and other geothermal water sources, thermally polluted water, such as runoff from power plants, fresh water aquariums, soil, including indoor dust.


 mage is wiki commons licence.
Cyst stage of the amoeba.

 Image is wiki commons licence.
Flagellate stage of the amoeba. In this form they cannot eat, so they soon go back to the trophozoite stage.

Putting any form of water under pressure up your nose without first sterilising it (boiling and cooling) first is not a good idea because of the lack of brain-external environment protection at the root of the nose. Many other toxins can be inhaled and cause brain tissue damage: spray-type insecticides for example!

Will my brain get 'eaten' if I drink water with this critter in:

It has to reach your brain through your nose.

Is there a cure for this:


Medical Perspective
N. fowleri disease is known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). It occurs from zero to eight times a year, in the USA almost always from July to September. The number of deaths are small but almost all people infected will die. In reality, very few people die through this organism, as far as is known, so unless you are into snorting dirty water or nose irrigation, it really isn't something to worry a lot about.

Thought for the day (mol): I wonder if other micro-organisms invade the brain through this method and maybe, just maybe, cause or mix with other factors to cause  modern and difficult to solve ailments:
Alzheimer's disease, for example?

It's only an uninformed thought.

Trypanosoma cruzi
will steal your heart


Photo Credit: ContentProviders(s): CDC/Dr. Myron G. Schultz. PD-USGov-HHS-CDC. This image is in the public domain and thus free of any copyright restrictions. Used here under the Wiki Creative Commons licence.
More (copyrighted) images via this external link

 Gross anatomy of a heart that has been damaged by chronic Chagas disease.


Trypanosoma cruzi  may take 10 to 20 years to steal your soul (or more correctly - your heart) but it will in the end if you don't know you have it. This micro-organism is transmitted by that little bug on the right:- a member of Triatominae and a subfamily of Reduviidae, also known as conenose bugs, kissing bugs, assassin bugs, or triatomines. They feed on blood, often yours!

Mostly confined to South America with a few species present in Asia, Africa, and Australia, they can carry the Trypanosoma cruzi.  The triatomine bug takes a blood meal you and often defecates.  If trypomastigotes are in the feces they swim into the host's cells using flagella, a characteristic swimming tail dominant in many protozoan stages. Once inside your body, and in a cell, they become amastigotes - a reproductive stage.

The condition of being infected by the protozoan is called
Chagas disease after its discoverer Carlos Chagas of the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz.


Panstrongylus geniculatus by: Fernando Otálora Luna.Montebello, Amalfi Municipality, Departmento de Antioquia, Colombia (6°55’58’’N; 75°05’30’’ W, 18-24 °C). Licenced under Wiki Creative Commons Licence.

source: CDC
Used here under Wiki creative commons licence.

If left untreated about 20–40% of infected individuals will still eventually develop life-threatening heart and digestive system disorders. The currently available antiparasitic treatments for Chagas disease are benznidazole and nifurtimox, which can cause temporary side effects in many patients including skin disorders, brain toxicity, and digestive system irritation but any treatment is only effective during the early stage of the infection.

Can I get this without being bitten?
Yes. It can be transferred by contaminated blood transfusion, from an infected mother to her foetus, through breast feeding (if the mother is infected). Although rare, it can also enter the digestive system through contaminated fruit juice and food.

Can I get this if I live in Europe?
Yes. Mostly due to increasing number of immigrants into Europe from South America. If they are carrying the protozoa, they are infected, and it comes with them.

Medical Perspective
Recent estimates from the World Health Organization indicate that 18 million persons are chronically infected with Trypanosoma cruzi and 200 000 new cases occur each year. No drugs or vaccines for preventing infection are currently available. There are two approaches to therapy, both of which can be life saving: antiparasitic treatment, to kill the parasite; and symptomatic treatment, to manage the symptoms and signs of infection. Antiparasitic treatment is most effective early in the course of infection but is not limited to cases in the acute phase

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