Thursday 31 July 2014

Brain-Eating Amoeba @neuroMOOC (Coursera)

Been busy lately with yet another coursera course, Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life which came to an end after 10-weeks of amazing lectures from Professor Peggy Mason @neuroMOOC of The University of Chicago. It was a great journey to my first ever neuro-biology class which I really enjoyed. Here is my attempt on the assignment.

Fluorescent stain image of Naegleria fowleri.
Credit: CDC via Wikimedia Commons

Brain-Eating Amoeba - Naregleria Fowleri

#MOOCs #neurobiology


As I was researching for an assignment, I stumbled upon the recent news regarding Naegleria fowleri which ended up with a death. Never heard about it before but that news get me interested into this silent killer disease. Naegleria fowleri which also been called as brain-eating amoeba that can be found in warm, stagnant bodies of fresh water, lakes and rivers which can invade the central nervous system and the brain by ingestion and attacking it causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The infection caused by this microscopic amoeba organism is fatal and has killed 95-97% of it's victims within days to weeks of it's infection. The targeted victims been children and young adults.


These organism invades the central nervous system through nose specifically through olfactory mucosa and cribriform plate of the nasal tissues. Amoeba then attaches itself to olfactory nerve which is the first cranial nerve and dig it's way to olfactory bulbs where it feeds itself to nerve tissue causing necrosis(form of cell injury that results in premature death of cells in living tissue by autolysis) and bleeding (hemorrhaging). Later, it moves along the nerve fibers and reaches cranium by cribiform plate and then into the brain. It starts to consume brain cells, piece by piece, eating and infecting it over time causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis which ends in a dead of the person.


It symptoms starts with the lost of smell and taste senses as it make it way through the nose and once in the brain, it starts digging and eating up the protective covering of the brain known as the meninges. As a result, our body activates the immune cells which then been sent to fight these which ends up causing surrounding areas inflamed which give rises to symptoms of headache, nausea, vomiting and stiff neck. As naegleria fowleri dig deeper and penetrates into the brain, the symptoms such as delirium, hallucinations, confusion and seizures kicks in as the frontal lobes of the brain tend to get affected because of the pathway it takes through olfactory nerve. In the end because of the extreme pressure in the skull from the inflammation and swelling caused by the body defense mechanism the person's die. Due to the increase pressure in the brain, it forces the brain stem and spinal cord to divide resulting in respiratory failure.

The Course:

This course provided me great deal of information and make me see the brain in a very different light. The journey into the brain helped me analysis myself and the people around me better. I had no background of Neurobiology before but with eye opener lectures and fascinating facts about the brain made me realized that I do enjoyed this subject after all. Because of this course I can understand the medical terms and hierarchy a bit better. I thank Ms. Peggy Mason and the University of Chicago deeply for providing such a great learning opportunity. It was a great leaning experience for me.


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