An elderly man has died after exposure to a potted-plant’s soil caused his brain to liquify due to a rare nervous system infection.
The 82-year-old travelled to the hospital after experiencing two weeks of “generalised weakness”, according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The man had previously been diagnosed with lymphoma, but had been in remission for more than 10 years.
After being admitted to hospital, he had trouble speaking and experienced weakness on his right side. An MRI detected an abnormality on the left side of the brain, the journal noted
The 82-year-old began receiving treatment for bacterial, fungal, and viral meningitis, however he became more drowsy over time and started to suffer seizures.
A second MRI showed a large lesion on his brain.
“This rare central nervous system infection caused by free-living amebas, particularly acanthamoeba species, is usually fatal,” the journal concluded.
“The ameba is transmitted through contact with soil or fresh water.
“Discussion with the patient’s wife revealed only an exposure to soil from potted-plant maintenance.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes ameba, a single-cell organism, can be found worldwide in soil and water.
“The ameba can be spread to the eyes through contact lens use, cuts, or skin wounds or by being inhaled into the lungs,” the CDC states.
“Most people will be exposed to Acanthamoeba during their lifetime, but very few will become sick from this exposure.”
The 82-year-old man suffered from Granulomatous Amebic Encephalitis (GAE), which the CDC notes is a serious infection that attacks the brain and spinal cord.
GAE typically occurs when the person has a compromised immune system.
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