CDC Studies Brain Eating Amoeba and Climate

October 28, 2013

Brain eating Amoeba. photo National Geographic


Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are investigating whether climate change could allow for the presence of the brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, in locations it has not previously threatened.

Naegleria Fowleri survives in warm, fresh water and infects people when contaminated water enters the nose and travels to the brain, resulting in the deadly infection known as primary amebic meningoencephaltis, or PAM.

The infection was confirmed in four children in the U.S. in the summer of 2013, killing three.

“There certainly is a concern,” Dr. Jennifer Cope, medical epidemiologist at the CDC, told

“We don’t have data right now to show that the infections are increasing, but just by the virtue of the fact that it’s a thermophillic organism and we’re seeing warmer temperatures, I think just put those two together. It certainly is something we are concerned about and we will be paying attention to.”

Most often, the infections are reported in southern-tier states, such as Florida and Texas, during the summer months. The two states have accounted for almost 50 percent of cases reported to the CDC since 1962.

In 2012, the infection was confirmed in Minnesota, marking the first occurrence outside of a southern-tier state. State officials confirmed it occurred after a heat wave, which warmed waters and may have made the area’s fresh water sources more conducive to the amoeba’s growth and survival.

Evidence does not suggest that more infections will occur with climate change, the CDC stressed, but the rising temperatures could allow the amoeba to exist in previously unhospitable environments.

“It may not be that there are more infections, and we don’t have evidence of that, but it could be that infections occur in places where they have previously not occurred, such as Minnesota, Kansas, places we’ve seen recent infections,” Waterborne Disease and Outbreak Surveillance Coordinator for the CDC Jonathan Yoder said.

In late August, the amoeba was discovered in the water supply of the St. Barnard Parish in Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans after a young boy became infected. Residents were then urged to take precautions to avoid getting water in their noses.

How the amoeba found its way into the water is still unclear, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals told

“We are certainly optimistic that we’re making some progress on understanding the ecology of the organism, understanding what’s important for treatment, but certainly there’s a lot to learn still,” Yoder said.

5 Responses to “CDC Studies Brain Eating Amoeba and Climate”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    It’s surprising that this post has not elicited any comments. This whole business of assorted “maladies” moving ever more northward as global warming intensifies is perhaps a bit of a backwater in the AGW debate, but it IS something that deserves more attention.

    The discovery of the brain-eating amoeba in Minnesota can perhaps be coupled to the die-off of the moose in the same state. Moose populations are in trouble all along the southern fringes of their range worldwide, but things are so bad in MN that it is thought moose could be GONE from MN within ten years. The same thing is occurring with less severity in other states. The cause? In MN–liver flukes, in WY—worms in carotid arteries, in NH—massive tick infestations.

    Scientists looking into this think that moose are becoming heat-stressed in the southern fringes of their range, and this weakens their immune systems and makes them more susceptible to parasites, to say nothing of making it harder to build body-fat reserves for winter.

    Other boreal forest dwellers like lynx and snowshoe rabbits are also in decline in the southern fringes of their ranges.

    I wonder what the deniers will come up with to explain all this?

  2. Dill Weed Says:

    “We don’t have data right now to show that the infections are increasing”

    Minnesota gets warm.

    Could it be that medical advances have allowed the discovery of something that has existed all the while?

    Blaming this on Climate Change based on no evidence.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Another denier troll comes out from under the bridge? Obviously, my “troll bait” worked.

      “Blaming this on Climate Change based on no evidence”, you say?

      I don’t think that the original article or my addendum on the moose did any such thing as “blame this on climate change”. We just suggested that there might be a connection and it needed to be studied further.

      That is not as much of an overreach as you suggesting that “medical advances” have allowed us to “discover something that has existed all the while”. We have known about PAM and brain eating amoebas in the southern states for many years—the point here is that this is the first time it has been found so far north, and I could list out many dozens of other phenomena that are creeping north along with the undisputed rise in temperatures.

      How about Rocky Mountain pine beetles invading British Columbia and devastating the forests for just one? We have known for years that RMPB populations are held down by low temperatures during the winter—winter temps have not been reaching their historic lows, more RMPB survive, the infestations move north. That is NOT a symptom of global warming?

  3. […] CDC Studies Brain Eating Amoeba and Climate […]

  4. […] covered the spread of brain eating amoebas several times.  There’s more. So much […]

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