Experts have reportedly warned that a brain-eating amoeba in the United States may be spreading northward due to temperature changes.
A new study on the ‘brain-eating’ Naegleria fowleri amoeba is set to be published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, according to a report by The Hill. The study looked at cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is an infection caused by the amoeba that leads to the destruction of brain tissue.
The amoeba typically lives in warm freshwater and soil in the southern United States and it can enter the human brain through the nose, according to the CDC. PAM cannot be contracted by swallowing infected freshwater.
The authors of the new study found that the amoeba has been located approximately 8.2 miles farther north every year over the last four decades, according to The Hill. The researchers reportedly believe this could be due to climate change causing higher temperatures in the northern states. (RELATED: Coalition Of Medical Groups Cite Climate Change As Greatest Threat To Public Health)
“Our results show a suggested northward expansion of PAM and its potential association with higher temperatures warrants further investigation,” wrote the researchers.
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PAM is very rare, having resulted in only 34 cases over the last decade, according to the CDC. However, when cases do arise, they are usually fatal. A study in the Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine indicates at least one case of PAM being treated with antibiotics, but this is reportedly the exception.
Dr. John Gnann, an infectious disease doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina, told Insider, “If you’re badly infected [with PAM] and particularly if you don’t seek medical care quickly enough, you can certainly be dead in a day or two.”