13-year-old Kannur girl dies from rare amoebic infection, second fatality globally

Medical teams are collaborating with microbiologists to understand potential structural changes in the amoeba and its behaviour.
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KOZHIKODE: Medical authorities in Kozhikode have reported a rare and concerning case of amoebic meningoencephalitis that led to the death of a 13-year-old girl from Kannur. The infection was caused by the amoeba Vermamoeba vermiformis, which has only one other known fatality case globally, in Mexico.

Despite being a common free-living amoeba found in human environments, this is the first reported fatal case in the country, according to medical experts.

The victim, Dakshina, was diagnosed posthumously after a brain biopsy confirmed the presence of the amoeba. Dr Abdul Rauf, a consultant paediatric intensivist at Baby Memorial Hospital, stated that Daksha likely contracted the infection after bathing in a swimming pool during a school trip to Munnar on January 28. Unusually, her symptoms took months to manifest, contrasting with the typical rapid onset of symptoms in primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) cases.

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5-yr-old girl from Malappuram infected with amoebic meningoencephalitis

In a related incident, a five-year-old girl from Munniyoor in Malappuram succumbed to PAM on May 20. She was infected by Naegleria fowleri, another rare and deadly amoeba, after bathing in the Munniyoor river.

Additionally, a 12-year-old boy from Ramanattukara, Malappuram, is currently in critical condition at Baby Memorial Hospital, also diagnosed with PAM caused by Naegleria fowleri. The boy developed symptoms, including fever, headache, and vomiting, within 5-6 days of bathing in Achankulam pond.

Dr Abdul Rauf noted that the death of Dakshina has prompted increased monitoring of PAM cases, as Vermamoeba vermiformis has never before been implicated in such fatalities. Medical teams are collaborating with microbiologists to understand potential structural changes in the amoeba and its behaviour. The doctors are set to conduct genetic sequencing of the amoeba to gain further insights.

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PAM scare in Kerala: Avoid exposure, stay away from dirty water, urge experts

The recent surge in PAM cases in the Malabar region, with three children under 15 years old admitted with symptoms in the past week, has raised concerns among medical professionals.

The rapid progression of the disease, typical of Naegleria fowleri infections, underscores the need for vigilance and prompt treatment. Authorities are testing water samples from suspected sources to identify and mitigate risks.

PAM, though rare, is a severe and often fatal disease linked to exposure to contaminated water. Public health officials are urging caution and awareness to prevent further cases.

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