Man dies after contracting ‘brain-eating’ amoeba, in Israel’s 2nd-ever recorded case

25-year-old patient presented with symptoms caused by rare brain infection last week after swimming at a Tiberias beach

Reporter at The Times of Israel

A 3D illustration of the brain-eating  infectious amoeba, Naegleria fowleri.(iStock)
A 3D illustration of the brain-eating infectious amoeba, Naegleria fowleri.(iStock)

An Israeli man who contracted encephalitis caused by a rare amoeba last week in the second-ever case recorded in Israel has died of the infection, announced Beilinson Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment, on Sunday.

The amoeba, known as Naegleria Fowleri, lives in soil and warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs. It is commonly called the “brain-eating amoeba” due to the brain infection it can cause if water containing the amoeba goes up the nose, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

The deceased, an otherwise healthy 25-year-old man, is thought to have potentially come into contact with the amoeba while swimming at Gai Beach on the shores of the Kinneret in northern Israel. He was initially admitted to Sharon Hospital last Tuesday after presenting with symptoms including fever, headaches, and vomiting. After his condition worsened, he was transferred to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah.

Following his death, the Kan public broadcaster quoted the hospital as saying, “From the moment he was hospitalized, medical teams used everything at their disposal, including drug treatments and surgical interventions in order to save the patient’s life, but his condition continued to deteriorate.”

While Naegleria Fowleri thrives in warm water, most people who swim in water sources containing the amoeba do not come into contact with it.

The Health Ministry said last week that it had sent environmental health inspectors to examine the beach where the man had been swimming, but no initial evidence of amoeba contamination was found.

According to Channel 12, the Health Ministry “will inform the public if necessary,” regarding updates to the investigation.

Illustrative: View of the Hukok Beach, Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, as rain begins to fall, on December 18, 2021. (Tzachi Gavish/Kinneret Cities Association)

The mortality rate from encephalitis — an infection of the brain — caused by the amoeba is extremely high, and while infection is extremely rare, it is often fatal.

Only some 400 cases have ever been diagnosed worldwide.

Symptoms of infection often include headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a stiff neck, as well as neurological symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and hallucinations. It requires immediate medical attention.

In August 2022, a 36-year-old Israeli man died of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection caused by the same amoeba.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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