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I hadn’t originally intended this to be a series of posts, but…there are things out in nature trying to kill you and you should know about them. Or really, I just like these horror stories. Although being brained by a tree isn’t so much a horror story as it is an event of extreme misfortune. ANYWAY…

Have you heard of the acanthamoeba? It’s an amoeba (duh) found in soil and fresh water. It’s the fresh water that’s the thing. It’s also found in tap water. And most buildings in the US are hooked into the municipal water supply. So it can get to you.

Why is this a problem, you ask? Well, under normal circumstances it isn’t a problem. The acanthamoeba normally eats bacteria or other protozoa. But there a few, the dastardly few, that can infect humans and infect them in increasingly horrid ways.

The first way, and the way I first found out about the amoeba (via reading weird news and not from personal experience), is that the acanthamoeba can live on your contact lenses if you don’t clean them well. This is a problem because if you stick said contact lens in your eye, the amoeba starts eating your cornea. Apparently, 75 people get to experience this each year in the UK. A teenager in Florida recently experienced the sensation of her cornea being eaten.

What happens when the amoeba starts eating your eye? Well, you go to the doctor where you are most likely misdiagnosed. It’s not really your doctor’s fault in misdiagnosing you. Seventy-five people may sound like a lot of people, but when you consider that there are millions of contacts wearers, 75 is a pretty small number in comparison. There are lots of other things that can happen to your eye to make it red and throbby and swollen. Things that are a lot more common than a parasite eating your eye.

Anyhoo, when your doctor finally figures out what’s happening to your eye, you begin treatment that involves a hospital stay and disinfecting eyedrops. If your doctor didn’t figure it out soon enough, you go blind. Tada! So fun! Clean your contacts properly, you. And wash your hands with soap beforehand. Or wear daily disposables. Or attempt to attain laser heat vision. Those methods would also work. (But still wash your hands regularly.)

Admittedly, going blind because a parasite has eaten your eye is unfortunate and unpleasant, but it’s not really fatal. And the title of this post blatantly advertises that nature is trying to kill you. So what else can this amoeba do? Well, it can cause encephalitis. If you are so lucky as to inhale some of its airborne cysts or get a cut in which the parasite can gain entry into your body, it will find its way into your central nervous system. Then it can cross the blood-brain barrier and wreak massive havoc upon your brain, and not just your attention span. As you know, the brain is an organ that is fairly vital to one’s continued living status. Survival rate is pretty slim. About 2-3%. And once again, misdiagnosis is common as the symptoms of infection are very similar to other more common causes. Yay!

If it makes you feel better, this infection normally only occurs in people who are already ill or have some kind of impaired immune system.

OTHER THINGS THIS AMOEBA CAN DO! It can be a host for MRSA. And then MRSA can replicate in it. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or sometimes multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus. That’s about as bad as it sounds.

MRSA is prevalent in hospitals. I blame the overuse of antibiotics (I’m ok with alcohol-based sanitizers). A MRSA infection in a hospital tends to be pretty bad stuff. Actually, an infection of normal, not drug-resistant staph in a hospital is pretty bad stuff. That’s because a good amount of those infections are occurring when you’re getting surgery or related and not a surface infection. You get an infection that’s deep inside of you, like inside your bone obtained from say, a car accident in which you broke your ankle (no, this didn’t happen to me but to someone I know), where it’s hard for antibiotics to get to and work effectively.

Now imagine that it’s not just a normal staph infection in your bone, but a MRSA infection. And now imagine that acanthamoeba busses are carrying even more MRSA and even delivering it to your brain. You’re probably going to liquefy and melt from the inside out. Your brains might dribble out of your ears and nose! Huzzah!

Not only that, acanthamoeba supposedly helps increase the MRSA population. Nature is trying to kill you!

Disclaimer: Most of my information came from Wikipedia and I haven’t done any research with primary or secondary resources (although I totally should as this stuff sounds really interesting). And also, this is a blog and not even a science blog. So…just take that as you will.


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