Deadly Brain-Eating Cell ‘Naegleria’ Found in Karachi Water Supply

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From 2015 to 2017, some 24 Naegleria cases were reported in Karachi, in contrast, 34 Naegleria cases were diagnosed in the entire United States in the last 10 years

SEP 3, 2018: Naegleria fowleri, the ‘brain-eating’ amoeba, has been detected in nearly all samples collected from drinking water being supplied to Karachi, reveals the latest edition of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases (IJID).

According to IJID, a U.S.-based research periodical, the mega city’s water supply system is heavily contaminated by such brain-eating amoebae as Naegleria fowleri, which is supposed to be a rare phenomenon. However, as many as 24 cases of Naegleria were reported in Karachi from 2015 to 2017. This is in contrast to a total of 34 Naegleria cases reported in the entire United States in a 10-year period (from 2008 to 2017).

Citing the results of a 3-year-long Aga Khan University (AKU) study, the IJID has reported detection of Naegleria fowleri in water samples which were collected from different areas of Karachi and were scientifically tested for the presence of a deadly single-cell microorganism by using culture and real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) amplification method.

“We report the presence of the Naegleria fowleri amoebae in domestic water supply in Karachi city,” according to the study which appeared in August-2018 edition of the IJID, a monthly research periodical published by the International Society for Infectious Diseases, based in Massachusetts.

The research is merely the tip of the iceberg, as an increasing number of Naegleria cases are feared to take place in Karachi, mainly owing to the lack of proper chlorination of potable water being supplied to the city.

The study reveals that the entire data collected during the research have been reported positive for free-living amoeba that causes a sudden and severe brain infection in adults and children.

The fatal infection is medically known as ‘Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM),’ which is mostly reported in people with a proven history of exposure to aquatic activities. However, in recent years, an alarmingly increasing number of PAM cases have been reported in Karachi, particularly in those people who have no history of aquatic recreational activities (e.g. swimming), but have reportedly been exposed to deadly microscopic amoeba during bathing or ritual nasal cleansing.

Posing a significant risk of deadly future outbreaks in the metropolitan, the presence of the Naegleria fowleri amoebae in domestic water systems of Karachi is alarming, which necessitates urgent measures to be taken by the local health authorities, concludes the study.

In December, Supreme Court Justice Saqib Nisar remarked that human waste was being deliberately released in water. Justice Saqib Nisar made the observation during the hearing of water pollution case. The remarks of the chief justice came after a short-film about contaminated water was shown in the courtroom.

In July, a report submitted to the Supreme Court stated that 90 per cent of drinking water samples collected from Karachi were unfit for human consumption and a significant portion was tainted with human waste.


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