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J Vet Diagn Invest. 2005 Nov;17(6):605-9.

Seasonal meningoencephalitis in Holstein cattle caused by Naegleria fowleri.

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  • 1University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, San Bernardino Branch, CA 92408, USA.


Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis is a fulminant infection of the human central nervous system caused by Naegleria fowleri, a free-living amoeba that thrives in artificially or naturally heated water. The infection usually is acquired while bathing or swimming in such waters. The portal of entry is the olfactory neuroepithelium. This report describes fatal meningoencephalitis caused by N. fowleri in Holstein cattle that consumed untreated surface water in an area of California where summer temperatures at times exceed 42 degrees C. In the summers of 1998 and 1999, severe multifocal necrosuppurative hemorrhagic meningoencephalitis was observed in brain samples from nine 10-20-month-old heifers with clinical histories of acute central nervous system disease. Olfactory lobes and cerebella were most severely affected. Lesions were also evident in periventricular and submeningeal neuropil as well as olfactory nerves. Naegleria fowleri was demonstrated by immunohistochemistry in brain and olfactory nerve lesions and was isolated from one brain. Even though cultures of drinking water did not yield N. fowleri, drinking water was the likely source of the amoeba. The disease in cattle closely resembles primary amoebic meningoencephalitis in humans. Naegleria meningoencephalitis should be included among differential diagnoses of central nervous system disease in cattle during the summer season in areas with high ambient temperatures.

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