Daily Mail: Elderly woman in China gets infected with brain-eating amoeba

April 18, 2024  18:00

Doctors in China have diagnosed brain cancer in an elderly woman whose brain was actually affected by a rare predatory amoeba, reports The Daily Mail.

The unnamed patient, 77, visited her local hospital in 2022 after complaining of dizziness, confusion, and difficulty speaking for several days.

Doctors thought she was suffering from a brain tumor because her scans showed a lesion.

However, a lumbar puncture—when a needle is inserted into the spine to test fluids—revealed she was infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, a single-celled organism that spreads to the brain and kills nine in ten patients.

Only one person infected with this amoeba survives, and early treatment is critical.

The Chinese woman's medical team wrote that she likely became infected due to her rural surroundings, as she lived close to water sources like ponds.

The woman spent eight days at her local hospital, gradually becoming confused and increasingly unable to speak.

Over the next several days, her airway became obstructed, causing her to be put on a ventilator.

The patient died after her family chose to forgo further treatment.

Balamuthia mandrillaris (B mandrillaris) is typically found in dust, soil, and water, and is thought to cause infections when it comes into contact with open wounds or being breathed in through the lungs, researchers assume.

The aforesaid Chinese woman's medical team wrote that she likely became infected due to her rural surroundings, as she lived close to water sources like ponds.

Balamuthia mandrillaris was first discovered in 1986 by the American scientist William Balamuth, and just 200 cases have been reported worldwide—100 of which were in the US.

It is a free-living amoeba, similar to Naefleria fowleri, which is found in warm water and has caused a spate of cases in the US over the past several years. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, early symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, lethargy, and nausea. 

However, as the condition progresses over weeks to months, it can lead to seizures, weakness, confusion, partial paralysis, difficulty speaking, and trouble walking. 

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