​Naegleria


Naegleria infection is caused by a 'brain eating amoeba' which is commonly found in fresh water lakes, rivers or hot springs. You can also become infected by it whilst swimming in pools and engaging in other fresh water sports. This amoeba usually travels through the nose and enters the brain where is causes severe damage. The symptoms start to show within 24 hours of contact and the amoeba can take your life within 7 days.

As a preventive measure, chlorine should be poured in your home tanks to kill any such amoeba which may exist in the water.

For frequent swimmers, during the summers, it is important that you choose the swimming pools wisely and make sure that the authorities keep it well maintained on a regular basis.

Once the amoeba enters your brain, it leads to inflammation of the brain tissues and destroys it completely. After contact, the symptoms start to exhibit themselves from around 2 to 15 days but once they do show the disease progresses rapidly. This can typically lead to death in a week.

  • Alteration in the sense of smell

  • Changes in sense of taste

  • High fever

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Stiff neck

  • Extreme headache

  • Confusion and disorientation

  • Sleepiness

  • Loss of balance

  • Hallucinations

  • Seizures

Consult our doctors working with the Internal Medicine Service Line at the Aga Khan University Hospital immediately if you see a sudden onset of any of the above symptoms. Especially if water has gone up your nose while swimming, ablution, bathing or any water activity. You can rapidly consult the 24/7 Emergency Services and Acute Care Services at the Aga Khan University Hospital as well where the team has been trained to screen Naegleria swiftly and will perform the required test immediately, if need be.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

The diagnosis of Naegleria is simple; however, because there is no cure of this disease and it progresses very rapidly, it is usually futile to conduct these tests. It is usually diagnosed through imaging testing.

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) scan: Your brain will be scanned to look for the affected area through cross-sectional images

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): The brain is a soft tissue and MRIs are most effective in detailed imaging to look out for the anomaly caused by the amoeba

Moreover, Spinal Tap or Lumbar Puncture is a test by which fluid from the spine is obtained by inserting a needle between two vertebrae in your lower back. After that, Naegleria amoeba can be seen under a microscope in the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord.

Very few people survive Naegleria, however if this disease is detected early, it is treatable; however the survival rate still remains thin. As primary treatment, prescribed medications will be injected in the vein or in the spinal cord to kill the amoebas.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.