5XUJ7T9KSPU3 It’s surprising that in the 21st century some of the top stories in health related news have to do with several one-celled organisms that can kill us.
The first one is an amoeba, Naeglieri Fowleri, an organism that grows in the sediment of shallow stagnant water. This past summer two 12-year-olds became infected with the brain dissolving disease (PAM) that’s triggered by the amoeba reaching the brain through the top of the nose.
Kali Hardig of Little Rock survived the infection because of the astute responsiveness of her physicians at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, who got permission from the CDC to use a German drug that has not been approved by the FDA. The breast cancer drug was given to Kali intravenously, directly attacking and killing the amoeba.
The second 12-year-old, Zachari Reyna of Florida didn’t receive the drug in time – ultimately his parents turned off life support after doctors detected no brain activity.
In both of these instances, the children had been playing in warm, shallow, stagnant water. Kali had been to a lake fed waterpark and Zachari had been skateboarding in puddles with friends.
But now there’s a new twist – a four year old Mississippi boy became infected with PAM after playing on a slip-n-slide in Louisiana. Health officials tracked the amoeba to drinking water supply lines.
What happened to the stagnant fresh water scenario? Doesn’t chlorine kill the amoeba?
It does, so the situation begs the question: how did this even happen? Jake Causey, chief engineer for Louisiana’s Office of Public Health says hurricane Katrina is to blame. Many residents left St. Bernard Parrish at the time of Katrina and never returned. Water supply lines that were designed to accommodate 64,000 people now serve only 44,000 residents. Causey explains that this radical reduction in population/water usage allowed water to sit in the pipes breaking down chlorine and the quality of the water itself. In the locations where the amoeba was found, no chlorine was detected.
Officials have alerted residents and are now flushing the pipes with chlorine to kill all traces of the amoeba.