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We all know amoebae from our biology education at school. Little single-cell organism, only visible under a microscope, creep in freshwater and feed the whole day- pretty boring and harmless things.

Figure 1 Amoeba proteus, harmless representative

Figure 1 Amoeba proteus, harmless representative

Are they really as harmless as you expect? Unfortunately not! The genus of the amoebae possesses parasitic representatives, which cause deadly diseases. Such as the amoeba Naegleria fowleri. Have you ever gone swimming in any warm freshwater lake, river or hot springs? If your answer is yes then you maybe swam with this bad amoeba. Naegleria fowleri loves warm freshwater or heated swimming pools. Don`t worry, Naegleria fowleri is globally spread, but an infection is extremely rare. Until now there were some minor outbursts in Australia and USA. 23 people died of a Naegleria fowleri-infection in 1995 in the USA. Between the years 2000 to 2009 only 30 infections were reported in the U.S

Why is this amoeba so dangerous? The primary disease caused when infected is primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) with a 95% mortality rate. Naegleria fowleri invade through our nose and the olfactory nerve in our brain. Inside the brain, the amoeba has a perfect environment to reproduce. Our brain affords food, heat and shelter. Over time the amoeba eats through our brain.

The symptoms of PAM are high fever, headache, neck stiffness and vomiting. Without treatment patients will go comatose and die within one to two weeks. Unfortunately mostly children are affected. Therefore you will find a warning sign at infested waters during hot summer periods.

Figure 2 Warning sign prevent amoebic meningitis

Figure 2 Warning sign prevent amoebic meningitis

If you are not scared enough have a look at youtube…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXZN1YHcq5A

And don’t forget: keep your head above water!!!

This piece was written by a member of Com Berlin’s English class. Check back soon to see more texts from other members of the class.

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