Remember when we warned you about the parasite Naegleria fowleri, which causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (in short, eats your brain)? And you were probably all “oh, brain-eating microorganisms, picture from Shaun of the Dead … this is clearly sensationalist nonsense.” Well, you SHOULD HAVE LISTENED, HUH? Because N. fowleri has now caused at least 10 deaths in Karachi, Pakistan, and I don’t want to say Grist readers could definitely have prevented it if they’d only taken the threat more seriously, but … OK, you definitely couldn’t have. But the point is, scary brain-eating parasites are for real!
N. fowleri has a 98 percent chance of killing you once it gets inside your head, which usually happens when you go swimming in overheated, unclean water (though it’s also possible to get it from using a Neti pot). The current crop of victims in Pakistan were reportedly not big swimmers, so it’s not clear how this outbreak originated. But we do know that climate change will make the world’s waterways a more hospitable habitat for these heat-loving microorganisms. CDC scientist Michael Beach said as much in 2007, when the U.S. saw an unusual (though still small) number of amebic meningoencephalitis deaths:
“This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better,” Beach said. “In future decades, as temperatures rise, we’d expect to see more cases.”
Put THAT in your Neti pot and stick it up your nose.
Brain-eating amoeba kills at least 10 in Karachi, Guardian.
Get Grist in your inbox