A newly discovered microscopic organism found in river bed can cause serious memory loss and confusion, scientists have warned. The single-celled microbe was first identified in Maryland, USA.It can cause dementia-like symptoms with sufferers experiencing memory loss and difficulties with concentration, attention span and learning abilities.
People suffer a stinging or burning sensation to the skin on contact with water containing the organism. Headaches and stomach problems follow. The severity of the symptoms appears to be proportional to the amount of exposure to the toxin excreted by the microbe. The first evidence that the microscopic creature, a dinoflagellate, could kill came from US fishermen who noted that fish in the Pocomoke River and nearby estuaries were swimming erratically and had strange lesion marks on their skin.
AdvertisementInvestigators discovered dinoflagellates living in the water, and tests showed that the creatures caused a frightening array of symptoms. victims suffered "acute confusion, episodes of disorientation, new or increasing forgetfulness, or difficulties concentrating".Problems included motorists setting out in their cars and then being unable to remember where they were going, and people forgetting they had mailed packages.
About 1,100 species of dinoflagellates are known to science, a few of which produce some of the most toxic substances known. Some species are responsible for shellfish poisoning, caused by people eating shellfish that have ingested the organism. The species identified in Maryland are Pfiesteria piscicida. It is found in brackish water and is almost indestructible. When pfiesteria cysts are put into sulphuric acid they survive for 30 minutes. A human body thrown into sulphuric acid would quickly dissolve.