Karachi: Naegleria fowleri, a.k.a brain-eating bug, recently claimed the first life of the year in Karachi.
According to medics, a 21-year old student from Orangi Town area passed away at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) due to infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
“A 21-year old student from Orangi Town, Anas Aslam, was brought to JPMC with high grade fever and other complaints. Doctors suspected meningitis and the patient was shifted to ICU on deterioration of his health. He died due to complications of the disease”, Executive Director JPMC Dr Seemin Jamali informed.
Dr Seemin Jamali said they had sent the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for analysis and the lab report confirmed that the young patient was infected with Naegleria fowleri infection. Naegleria is an ameba, single-celled living organism, commonly found in warm freshwater including lakes, rivers, and hot springs and soil. Experts say only one species (type) of Naegleria infects people.
According to infectious diseases experts, one cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water. Naegleria infections occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or contaminated tap water) enters the nose, for example when people submerge their heads or cleanse their noses during ablution, and when people irrigate their sinuses (nose) using contaminated tap water.
As per a recent study conducted by experts in Karachi and Saudi Arabia, Naegleria fowleri’s colonies have been found in the mud accumulated in the overhead and underground tanks of water in Karachi and as soon as weather conditions becomes favourable, they start growing and multiplying in huge numbers, posing a serious health threat to people who use non-chlorinated water.
Similarly, other experts have claimed that environmental pollution in Keenjhar Lake and the Hub Dam – where most of Karachi’s water comes from – has also increased the presence of Naegleria fowleri in fresh water, but the city’s water utility has taken no steps to chlorinate the water before it is supplied, which is the most effective way of killing microorganisms.
Confirming the first death due to Naegleria fowleri in Karachi, Sindh Health Department’s focal person for Naegleria fowleri, Dr Zafar Mehdi, said seven persons had lost their lives due to lethal infection caused by the brain-eating bug in Karachi in 2018 as Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) is in the habit of providing non-chlorinated water to the citizens for last several years.
“Chlorination of water kills all the microorganisms but unfortunately, our water utility is not adding chlorine to the water and providing contaminated water to the citizens. As soon as health department forms Naegleria fowleri monitoring committee this year, we would start inspecting water pumping stations and swimming pools whether chlorinated water is being provided and used or not”, Dr Zafar Mehdi added.