U.S. Water News Online
TUCSON -- A brain-eating amoeba has been identified in
Tucson's water supply but experts assure consumers that drinking from
the city's water supply does not pose a health risk.
The killer amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri, was found in
several Tucson wells but experts say its presence in the city's water
supply poses no danger to consumers.
Tucson Water chlorinates its well water before distribution,
killing the amoeba before the water reaches taps, the Associated
Press reports. Its presence in underground water is however a
surprise to at least one expert.
"The organism is everywhere. It feeds on bacteria," the AP quotes
Charles Gerba, a microbiology professor with the University of
Arizona's Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science.
Naegleria fowleri can usually be found in surface water such as
rivers and lakes and researchers speculate that it has thrived in
underground water because of biodegradable oil used in pumps.
Last month, a 14-year-old boy died after being contaminated with
the microscopic organism he came into contact with while swimming in
The amoebas enter the body through the nose and travel to the
brain, where they destroy brain tissue, leading to the person's
death. The only way to become infected is to snort water. A person
can drink water that has Naegleria fowleri and never be infected, the
Professor Gerba expressed concern regarding private wells. Tucson
Water chlorinates its groundwater before distribution, which may not
be the case with private wells.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 23
people were killed by the amoeba between 1995 and 2004. While
infection with Naegleria is very rare, it most often occurs during
dry summer months. The number of infections increases during years
characterized by heat waves, according to the CDC.
The CDC also specifies on its official website that a person
cannot become contaminated with Naegleria from a swimming pool, as
long as it is properly cleaned, maintained, and chlorinated.
Likewise, Naegleria infection cannot be spread through
There is no certified treatment for the infection.
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