Boy, 12, dies from rare ‘brain-eating amoeba’ infection in southern India

  (AFP via Getty)
(AFP via Getty)

A 12-year-old boy in Kerala has died from a rare infection caused by “brain-eating amoeba”.

He’s the third person to have died of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis in the southern Indian state since May, The Hindu reported.

The boy had taken ill after bathing in a pond and was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Kozhikode . He died on Thursday.

“We identified the infection in tests done in our labs and informed the district’s medical officer who took preventive measures by closing access to the pond where the child had bathed,” an unnamed doctor who treated the boy was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri , thrives in warm freshwater and infects humans through the nose.

It has also been found in artificially heated industrial water sources and domestic water supplies.

A five-year-old girl in Malappuram and a 13-year-old girl in Kannur died from the same infection on 21 May and 25 June, respectively.

The state’s health department has advised caution when bathing in stagnant water and emphasised the need for proper chlorination to prevent infection.

“Bathing in stagnant water and diving in water should be avoided as much as possible,” the department said.

“Water in theme parks and swimming pools should be properly chlorinated to ensure that it is clean.”

The infection can destroy brain tissue and cause severe brain swelling.

It is not contagious.

The symptoms include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. As the condition progresses, patients may also develop a stiff neck, experience confusion, seizures, hallucinations, and potentially slip into a coma.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis “die within 1 to 18 days after symptoms begin”.

“It usually leads to coma and death after five days.”