Amoeba Found In Soil Turned Elderly Gardener's Brain Into A Mushy Liquid

An elderly man died after contracting an infection from a rare brain-eating amoeba found in the soil while he was tending to his garden. The man went to the emergency room after feeling unusually weak for two weeks. After he was admitted to the hospital, his condition continued to deteriorate.

An MRI revealed an abnormality in his left frontal lobe, and doctors began treating him for bacterial, fungal, and viral meningitis. The treatment failed to help, and the 82-year-old began to suffer seizures. He died nine days after being admitted to the hospital, and his cause of death stumped doctors until they conducted an autopsy. 

According to researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, who detailed the man's case in the New England Journal of Medicine, they discovered he died from a rare infection of the brain known as Granulomatous amebic encephalitis caused by the species acanthamoeba. The brain-eating amoeba turned part of his frontal lobe into a mushy liquid known as "liquefactive necrosis."

"This rare central nervous system infection caused by free-living amoebas, particularly acanthamoeba species, is usually fatal," the researchers wrote.

According to the CDC, acanthamoeba is a fairly common amoeba that most people will come in contact with it and never get sick. Rare infections, such as Granulomatous amebic encephalitis, tend to occur in older people who have a weakened immune system. The acanthamoeba can also result in acanthamoeba keratitis, which is an eye infection that can cause permanent damage to your vision. 

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