Amoebic encephalitis reported in Thrissur, boy recovering

This is the fifth case of amoebic encephalitis reported in Kerala in the past two or three months. The four other cases were reported from Kozhikode, Kannur, and Malappuram, in adolescent children, three of whom lost their lives

Published - July 10, 2024 09:13 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Yet another case of amoebic encephalitis has been reported in the State, this time in a 12-year-old boy from Padoor in Thrissur.

The causative organism was identified as Vermamoeba vermiformis, a Free-living amoebae (FLA) found in the environment and which are responsible for different infections caused to humans and other animals.

District Medical Officer of Thrissur T.P. Sreedevi said the boy had contracted the infection in June and had been undergoing treatment at a hospital in Ernakulam since then. The boy, who was being treated intensively, had since been discharged and had been referred to Thrissur Medical College Hospital for follow-up treatment, Dr. Sreedevi said.

This is the first time that amoebic encephalitis is being reported from Thrissur. Not much information is forthcoming about how the child might have contracted the infection.

This is the fifth case of amoebic encephalitis reported in the State in the past two or three months. The four other cases were reported from Kozhikode, Kannur, and Malappuram, in adolescent children, three of whom lost their lives. In all these cases, there was the history of children getting into waterbodies, from where they are believed to have come into contact with the amoebic parasite, Naegleria fowleri.

According to literature, natural freshwater environments, surface water, soil and biofilms are the natural habitats for V. vermiformis. It is one of the most prevalent FLA found in humid ecosystems. It has been detected in waters, springs, snow, and soil.

In addition to these natural humid habitats, V. vermiformis has been isolated from man-made environments and engineered water systems such as tap water, fountains, water pipes, bottled mineral water, drinking water sources, recreational waters and swimming pools.

In several studies, V. vermiformis has been found within the human environment, even on contact lens storage cases and hospital ward dust, showing how easy it is for humans to come in contact with these organisms.

Literature also says that V. vermiformis represents a serious public health issue as it has been reported as causal agents of several opportunistic diseases, including fatal encephalitis or epithelial disorders. Also, this organism are well-known to host viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms. It is known to colonise water systems and to be a reservoir of pathogenic bacteria, such as Legionella pneumophila.

Health officials are not clear why the frequency of cases of amoebic encephalitis has suddenly gone up, while it is conjectured that the unusually hot weather of the recent months could have had a role in this.

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