Occurrence of the Pathogen Naegleria fowleri in National Park Hot Springs: Environmental factors, Visitor Safety, and Management Actions

Primary Investigators

USGS Investigators: Stacy Kinsey

NPS Investigators: Jefferson Hungerford , Sue Consolo-Murphy , Theresa Thom

Project Details

Start Year: 2018

Category: Intensive

2018 2019 2020
$100,000 $100,000 $100,000
Project Location

NPS Park: Grand Teton NP , Lake Mead NRA , Yellowstone NP

USGS Center: Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center

States: WY NV

Many national parks have popular geothermal soaking areas but little is known about the thermophilic pathogens that could inhabit these areas and cause deadly infections in humans and animals. Initial investigations have detected the deadly pathogen Naegleria fowleri in popular geothermal soaking areas in Yellowstone National Park (YELL), Grand Teton National Park (GRTE) and Lake Mead National Recreation Area (LAKE). The extent of this threat or environmental factors that increase the growth and density of the pathogen is unknown.

New inexpensive DNA-based assays and techniques are now available that can be applied in the field to detect the pathogen N. fowleri and other microbes of concern such as Escherichia coli. The application of these techniques alongside traditional water-quality analyses would provide many national parks with new information and better tools to quickly assess the risk of exposure to deadly infections in popular geothermal soaking areas.

This study will provide new scientific data and tools necessary to better understand the presence of N. fowleri and E. coli at popular geothermal soaking areas in YELL, GRTE, and LAKE and the environmental conditions under which these pathogens exist.

Project Publications