Science and Tech


A Grieving Mother Wants To Warn You About This Rare But Deadly Amoeba

Jennifer McClain's daughter Kelsey died after becoming infected with a brain-eating amoeba in 2015.
Posted at 1:25 PM, May 02, 2016

"I have two other daughters, but it doesn't matter. I miss her horribly," Jennifer McClain told KGTV

Jennifer McClain's daughter Kelsey died last year shortly after celebrating her 24th birthday at a resort along the Colorado River. 

Newsy's partners at KGTV report doctors originally believed Kelsey had developed bacterial meningitis after she lost the ability to speak and move her head. 

"It was apparent to everybody this was progressing," McClain said. 

Doctors later discovered Kelsey was infected with a brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri. The organism lives in slow-flowing rivers, untreated swimming pools and warm lakes and enters the brain through a person's nasal cavity. 

It's a pretty rare infection, which is why health officials say it isn't often talked about. 

"For every one patient that will die of Naegleria, a thousand more people will die of drowning," Navaz Karanjia, medical director for UC San Diego's Neurocritical Care Program, told KNSD

Thirty-seven cases were reported from 2006 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And there's no clear-cut way to treat the amoeba. 

"My life is ruined. Destroyed," McClain said. 

The CDC says people can limit their chances of becoming infected by not submerging their heads while swimming in warm freshwater sources.