Amoeba awareness research update by Dr. Melissa Jamerson, associate professor Medical Laboratory Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Studying the effects of different environmental conditions such as temperature, salinity and pH on Naegleria fowleri viability. These studies are very important because not much is known about the environmental conditions needed for Naegleria fowleri survival. The results of these initial studies have shown that the amoeba are able to survive in water as hot as 120 degree Fahrenheit for 24-hours. 120 degree Fahrenheit is a common temperature for hot water heaters.
In terms of salinity, the amoeba are able to survive in salinity up to 1.4 percent for 48-hours. This level of salinity is three to four times that of a salt water pool.
The last condition investigated is pH to determine the acidic and basic conditions the amoeba can tolerate. The findings demonstrated that the amoeba can survive up to 48-hours at a very acidic pH of 3.0 and for 24-hours at a very basic pH of 12.0.
In addition to the research, we are also involved in educating those in the medical community about Naegleria fowleri, such as medical laboratory scientists that we train in our department.
This past year we have added laboratory sessions to give more of our students hands on experience with clinical samples containing live amoeba. Increasing the education and materials provided to these students will give them the skill set needed to successfully identify the amoeba should they see one in a patient sample.