illustration of a spiral shaped bacterium against a black background

A “cluster of illnesses” in Oklahoma has an unknown cause. An expert told Live Science that Leptospira bacteria (pictured) could be a potential culprit. (Image credit: THOM LEACH / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

State and federal health officials are investigating the cause of a “cluster of illnesses” in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Early analyses have ruled out the freshwater-residing “brain-eating amoeba” Naegleria fowleri, known for causing a rare but nearly always fatal brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), as a potential cause, Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) officials told Live Science in an emailed statement.  

“What we know at this time is a few individuals have presented to healthcare providers with varying symptoms,” and tests for PAM caused by N. fowleri have been negative, the statement reads. The OSDH is currently investigating the reports and working alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct further tests.

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