Well, it’s billed as an amoeba, but it’s really a protist, Naegleria fowleri (Naegleria is in the family Vahlkampfiidae, while true amoebas are in the family Amoebidea and the genus Amoeba). But it’s a bad protist, for it causes infections that, while rare, are nearly always fatal. Three people have already died this year.
As CNN reports, the infection is water-borne: the protist enters the noses of swimmers, and then lodges and multiplies in their brains, causing death by consuming the neurons of the frontal lobe, leading to swelling of the brain. Only one person is known to have survived the infection, so it’s nearly as deadly as rabies.
Note that in the video at the link, the mother of a 16-year-old girl who died from the parasite calls her loss a “blessing in disguise,” for the daughter was an organ donor (something we should all be doing), and the death has not only alerted people to potential dangers of the protist, but also has brought people to religious faith, made them go to church and get baptized, and inspired them to believe in God. It’s understandable that a distraught mother would want to find something positive in the death of her child, but how such a senseless tragedy inspires people to turn to God is beyond me. Not only did He take a young girl for no obvious reason, but He created the parasite that killed her. I’ve written a hymn to explain:
The parasite, the flies that bite
All came from Adam’s Fall;
The protists that consume the brain—
Yes, the Lord God made them all.
Life stages of Naegleria fowleri. Left to right: cyst, trophozoite (reproductive feeding stage), and flagellate