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Diseases of Another Kind

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The drought that has the entire country in its grip is affecting more than the color of people’s lawns. It may also be responsible for the proliferation of a heat-loving amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs, which the drought has made warmer than usual this year.

A 9-year-old Kansas girl recently died of an infection caused by this parasite after swimming in several area lakes. The amoeba enters the body through the nose of an individual and travels to the brain. Nose plugs can lower the odds of this rare but fatal pathogen entering the body.

The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, is classified as a sapronosis, an infectious disease caused by pathogenic microorganisms that inhabit aquatic ecosystems and/or soil rather than a living host. Scientists at UC Santa Barbara studying infectious disease transmission published their findings in the latest issue of the journal Trends in Parasitology.

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