>> Questions or Comments: tox@tceq.texas.gov
You are here:

Infectious Amoeba: Naegleria fowleri

The naturally occurring amoeba Naegleria fowleri can cause primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

Prevalence of PAM in Texas

On very rare occasions, a naturally occurring amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) can cause a fatal infection, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis of the brain and spinal cord. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, from 1983 through 2010 there were 28 deaths from Naegleria fowleri infections in Texas—an average of about one per year.

How Does Infection Occur?

Infection can occur when water containing the amoeba is taken in through the nose while swimming or diving in freshwater, especially stagnant ponds, streams, or lakes in areas where the climate is warm. The amoeba may also enter the nose during nasal irrigation if the water has not been sterilized, distilled, or boiled.

Monitoring and Testing Water

The TCEQ and the Clean Rivers partners periodically monitor water bodies and assess overall water quality at about 1,800 sties around the state. This monitoring can identify issues and support efforts to manage water quality long term.

Naegleria fowleria is not included in the suite of parameters tested because it takes weeks to grow and identify the amoeba and there is no established relationship between detection or concentration and the risk of infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Exit the TCEQ and related public-health agencies caution that natural bodies of water, especially warm and stagnant water, may contain organisms that can cause illness ranging from mild to severe and even life threatening.

Find Out How You Can Reduce the Risk of Infection

For additional information, please contact our Toxicology Division at 877-992-8370 or tox@tceq.texas.gov.