Surfer Dies After Contracting Extremely Rare 'Brain-Eating Amoeba'

A surfer in the United States died of the extremely rare "brain-eating amoeba" just days after visiting a surf park.

Fabrizio Stabile, 29, visited the BSR Cable Park in Waco, Texas, where it's suspected he contracted the rare amoeba Naegleria fowleri, an infection so rare it's only been diagnosed 143 times in the United States since 1962.

After complaining of a headache, his mother was unable to wake him the next morning, and he was rushed to hospital. Stabile was initially diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, but wasn't responding to treatment.

Naegleria fowleri is commonly referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba". Photo: CDC.

"As family and friends huddled in the ICU waiting room, we were delivered a devastating blow," said a GoFundMe page set up in his memory.

Stabille's cerebrospinal fluid tested positive for the infection, but it was too late to administer the drug, according to the GoFundMe Page.

"We were hopeful until the end, but unfortunately, on Friday September 21st we learned the heart-breaking news that Fabrizio was pronounced brain dead as a result of this brain-eating amoeba."

The infection has a 97 percent fatality rate, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Just four people infected in the last 55 years have survived.

The surf park voluntarily closed on Friday pending a CDC investigation, reported local media, and is complying with local health departments.

The surf park where Stabile is suspected to have contracted the infection. Photo: Facebook / BSR Cable Park.

BSR Cable Park owner Stuart E. Parsons Jr. said the parks' "hearts and prayers" were with the "family, friends and the New Jersey surf community during this difficult time".

Naegleria fowleri cannot be contracted by swallowing contaminated water, according to the CDC. It most commonly enters the body through the nose, where it travels to the brain causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). It is usually fatal.

Infections most typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater, but in "very rare instances", it can also occur in contaminated water from sources such as "inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water".

Samples from the pool have been collected for testing, with preliminary results expected later this week.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Lead photo: GoFundMe