Whilst preparing for the comprehension exam – which I sat yesterday, and which went well – I referred to this piece I wrote in March last year, about a genetic method which employs a modified rabies virus for labelling all the connections made by a single nerve cell. The work was reported in the journal Neuron; soon after I wrote about it, senior author Ed Callaway commented on the post.
Over the past few days, there have been numerous scary news stories about a “brain-eating” amoeba that has killed six boys and young men this year (three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona, the most recent case being that of 14-year-old Aaron Evans, who died on September 17th).
The amoeba in question is Naegleria folweri, a thermophilic (heat-loving) free-living organism that is commonly found in rivers, fresh water lakes and soil all over the world.
N. fowleri infects humans very rarely, but infection is usually fatal. It normally occurs during water-related activities such as swimming or diving. The amoeba enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain via the olfactory bulb. Infection causes a disease called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which destroys nervous tissue.