People who become contract Naegleria fowleri may survive a little longer, or altogether, if doctors prevent their immune systems from responding to the infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Naegleria fowleri lives up to its nickname: the brain-eating amoeba. After a rush of contaminated fresh water, usually from lakes, rivers, and hot springs, enters the nose, the parasite moves up the nasal cavity toward the brain, where it feeds on cells and releases proteins that destroy brain tissue. This infection, called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), is almost always untreatable — in the U.S., only three of the 133 people who became infected since the parasite’s discovery in 1962 have survived. New approaches to treatment, however, may soon change that.
Doctors have treated the infection with the breast cancer drug miltefosine since at least 2013, when several cases of the infection emerged in Southern states. However, the parasite infects the brain so quickly — patients can die within five days of infection — that the drug is often not administered fast enough. Because of this, researchers have been looking for new treatment approaches, and a new study may have found one, suggesting that it’s the body’s own immune response that contributes to the parasite’s lethality.
Abdul Mannan Baig, of the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Aga Khan University in Pakistan, found that the brain reacts swiftly and intensely to the parasitic infection. As the parasite releases enzymes and toxins into the brain, destroying cells, the immune system mounts a counterattack, triggering an inflammatory response. This response backfires, however, causing pressure to build up and eventually break the blood-brain barrier. Thus, neuronal damage ensues not only from the ameba but also from inflammation.
Baig came to these conclusions after testing N. fowleri against brain cells in lab dishes. Brain cells paired with immune cells died about eight hours sooner than brain cells that didn’t get help from immune cells, New Scientist reported. Because of this, Baig suggested one of the first things doctors treat infected patients with is immunosuppressive drugs, and then drugs that combat PAM.
This approach could be especially beneficial to people living in Pakistan and the surrounding region, where Baig says about 20 people die each year from PAM. In the U.S., that number is far smaller. “It is worth testing, but it is very hard to test because the infection is so rare,” Jennifer Cope, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told New Scientist. Still, as climate change causes increases in temperatures across the U.S., infections may become more common.
Source: Baig AM. Pathogenesis of amoebic encephalitis: Are the amoebas being credited to an ‘inside job’ done by the host immune response? Acta Tropica. 2015.
An aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue (and chikungunya) virus. The 2014 National Climate Assessment warned that climate change is “increasing the risk of … health threats that are currently uncommon in the United States, such as dengue fever.”
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/USDA, FILE
It’s a myth there are no big winners from climate change besides fossil fuel companies.
According to one study, global warming is doubling bark beetle mating, triggering up to 60 times as many beetles attacking trees every year. The decline in creatures with shells thanks to ocean acidification “could trigger an explosion in jellyfish populations.” And climate change has helped dengue fever, which spread to 28 U.S. states back in 2009.
Of course, invasive plants will become “even more dominant in the landscape.” And who doesn’t love ratsnakes?
Let’s also not forget brain-eating parasites, which are expected to thrive as U.S. lakes heat up. That parasite — the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri — feasts on human brains like a tiny zombie. As one Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expert warned several years ago: “This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better. In future decades, as temperatures rise, we’d expect to see more cases.”
But this is just a taste of things to come, as two parasite experts explain in a recent article, “Evolution in action: climate change, biodiversity dynamics and emerging infectious disease [EID].” That article is part of a special April issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B., whose theme is “Climate change and vector-borne diseases of humans.”
“The appearance of infectious diseases in new places and new hosts, such as West Nile virus and Ebola, is a predictable result of climate change,” as the news release explains. The article examines our “current EID crisis.”
Coauthor Daniel R. Brooks explains: “It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet,” he said, referring to the deadly fictional pathogen. But he warns: “There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks that put a lot of pressure on our medical and veterinary health systems. There won’t be enough money to keep up with all of it. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.”
Many tropical diseases are tropical because their insect or animal host prefer warmer climates. A 2015 report on neglected tropical diseases by the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that “climate variability and long-term climate changes in temperature, rainfall and relative humidity are expected to increase the distribution and incidence of at least a subset of these diseases.” For instance, WHO notes, “dengue has already re-emerged in countries in which it had been absent for the greater part of the last century.”
The Congressionally-mandated 2014 National Climate Assessment concurs: “Large-scale changes in the environment due to climate change and extreme weather events are increasing the risk of the emergence or reemergence of health threats that are currently uncommon in the United States, such as dengue fever.”
“Some of the neglected tropical diseases are no longer strictly tropical,” said Dr. Dirk Engels, the director WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, in a statement.
Certainly there have been major advances in the fight against many tropical diseases, but those are primarily due to medical advances and investments in public health. Such investments remain a top priority in a warming world. But the kind of extreme climate change humanity faces on our current path of unrestricted carbon pollution makes the job harder for all those focused on public health around the world.
Our Full GI Panel consists of our Comprehensive Stool Analysis Test and our Swab Culture Test. The combination of these two test provdies full coverage screening of all intestinal pathogens and is recommended for anyone experiencing GI symptoms. Please see details of each individual test and their relevant publications below.
It provides a detailed analysis of all intestinal parasites (Protozoa, Trematodes, Tapeworms, Nematodes) from all 7 continents as well as an overview of other intestinal organisms including Candida, yeast, and other fungi. See Dr. Amin’s article Understanding Parasites for informative background on parasitic infections and prevalence. Analysis of bio-indicators such as red and white blood cells, mucus, fatty acid crystals, starch granules, undigested tissue beneficial bacteria, epithelial cells, pollen, and charcot-leyden crystals is also included. Click on new publication for pictures and the signifigance of the bio-indicators.
Swabs are taken for culturing and analysis of bacterial and fungal infections. Sensitivity and resistance results are also included. The swab can be used for culturing stool, skin, or any other body parts or secretions. This test is highly recommended for patients with GI symptoms who have had negative stool tests for parasites, as the symptoms for pathogenic bacteria are very similar to those of parasitic infections. See a new publication in the Journal of Bacteriology and Parasitology by Dr. Amin. View another publication re: IBS and gut flora in the New England Journal of Medicine which attributes up to 20% of IBS to gut flora. That is before parasite screening, after a negative parasite test that number goes up dramatically.
This test evaluates the presence of protozoan, worm (Shistosoma eggs), and bacteria. Anyone with abnormalities in the color and/or texture of urine especially after foreign travel should take this test.
This test is run for patients with history of having been bitten by bloodsucking insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, lice, Triatoma bugs, or fleas looking for parasites such as malaria, Babesia, Trypanosoma, Wuchereria, Brugia, Loa, or Onchocerca. Additionally, metabolic dysfunctions such as vitamin deficiencies, free radical damage, pancreatic and liver disorders detectable from blood cell abnormalities are reported. Directions for making a thin blood film are available.
Any tissue samples, individual organisms, or material suspected to be of parasitic nature are identified.
This test is highly recommended for patients experiencing anal itching with negative test results and with no other plausable cause to explain the itching. Pinworms do not normally present themselves in the normal fecal flow as they gravitate to the peri-anal region especially at night. This is the only way to accurately test for pinworm presence.
This test is used to evaluate the presence of water borne parasites as well as other parasites, bacteria, and fungus. The most common microscopic human parasites (Protozoa) are transmitted via drinking water contaminated with fecal material from infected persons. Approximately 1/4th of US households carry parasites in their water. Approximately 1/5th of US households supplied by surface water treatment plants carry parasites such as Cryptosporidum and Giardia. This test also screens for the amoebas and Schistosomiasis.
All of the above tests can be ordered here ONLINE from a Parasitologist at Parasitology Center Inc.