Naegleria fowleri is a thermophilic free-living amoeba found worldwide in soils and warm freshwater. It is the causative agent of primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a nearly always fatal disease afflicting mainly children and young adults. Humans are exposed to the organism via swimming, bathing, or other recreational activity during which water is forcefully inhaled into the upper nasal passages. Although many studies have looked at the occurrence of N. fowleri in surface waters, limited information is available regarding its occurrence in groundwater and geothermally heated natural waters such as hot springs. This paper reviews the current literature related to the occurrence of N. fowleri in these waters and the methods employed for its detection. Case reports of potential groundwater exposures are also included. Despite increased interest in N. fowleri in recent years due to well-publicized cases linked to drinking water, many questions still remain unanswered. For instance, why the organism persists in some water sources and not in others is not well understood. The role of biofilms in groundwater wells and plumbing in individual buildings, and the potential for warming due to climate change to expand the occurrence of the organism into new regions, are still unclear. Additional research is needed to address these questions in order to better understand the ecology of N. fowleri and the conditions that result in greater risks to bathers.
- Groundwater monitoring
- Thermal conditions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)