Naegleria fowleri, better known as the “brain-eating amoeba,” is slowly making its way northwards from the southern United States — and we’ve got climate change to blame, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The single-celled organism behind the infections is usually found in warm bodies of freshwater, including lakes and rivers.
Once a person is infected — an exceedingly rare occurrence usually resulting from swimming or diving in infected waters — the amoeba travels from the nose into the brain.
Once there, the organism can kick off a nasty brain condition called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). And yep, according to the CDC, PAM is “usually fatal.”
Since the amoeba prefers warm waters, a temperature like a hot-tub-like 113 degrees Fahrenheit, an upward shift in global temperatures caused by climate change is giving N. fowleri new opportunities to expand north over the last 40 years.
It is possible that rising temperatures and consequent increases in recreational water use, such as swimming and water sports, could contribute to the changing epidemiology of PAM.
The actual number of yearly cases isn’t increasing; it’s just that they’re occurring over a larger geographic range.
Reference- CDC Report and website, Live Science Report, Journal Emerging Infectious Diseases