Man dies after being infected with 'brain-eating amoeba', first case in South Korea


Lean Jinghui | December 27, 2022, 06:19 PM

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A South Korean man in his 50s has died after being infected with Naegleria fowleri, a "brain-eating amoeba".

According to Yonhap News Agency, it is the first known case of infection in the country.

Had just returned from Thailand

Yonhap News Agency reported that the man had just returned from Thailand on Dec. 10, after a four-month stay there.

He was admitted to a hospital the next day after displaying symptoms of meningitis, reported NDTV, and died on Dec. 20.

According to The Korea Herald, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said that it had later conducted genetic tests on three types of pathogens causing Naegleria fowleri, to confirm the cause of death.

The testing confirmed the gene in the man’s body was 99.6 percent similar to that found in a meningitis patient reported abroad.

KDCA has since asked residents to refrain from swimming in areas where the disease broke out.

Although the odds of human-to-human transmission of Naegleria fowleri are low, most cases start through swimming, the agency added.

The KDCA also recommended that travellers use clean water when going to areas where cases have been reported.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water, but infections may happen when people use contaminated tap water to clean their nose.

What is Naegleria fowleri

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba commonly found in soil as well as warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, canals and hot springs.

The amoeba enters the body by inhalation through the nose and travels to the brain to destroy brain tissue.

The first case of Naegleria fowleri was reported in Virginia, the U.S., in 1937.

A total of 381 cases of Naegleria fowleri have since been reported around the world as of 2018, including in India, Thailand, U.S., China and Japan.

According to the CDC, only four people have survived out of 154 infected individuals in the U.S., from 1962 to 2021.

Top images via CDC website