Published: Sat, December 08, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Woman dies from brain-eating amoeba after using neti pot

Woman dies from brain-eating amoeba after using neti pot

However, instead of using sterile water, she used tap water that had been run through a store-bought filter. Then the numbness began on her left side.

"According to the doctors who treated the woman, the non-sterile water that she used it thought to have contained Balamuthia mandrillaris, ï"¿an amoeba that over the course of weeks to months can cause a very rare and nearly always fatal infection in the brain.

"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", Dr Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, told The Seattle Times. A CT scan showed an abnormal lesion in her brain that indicated she might have a tumor, so doctors sent a sample of tissue for testing.

A 69-year-old woman from Seattle, Washington, died after contracting a rare brain-eating amoeba from using a neti pot to clean out her sinuses, according to the Seattle Times.

The woman, doctors realized, had been infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, a type of amoeba that can infect the brain and cause massive damage. Although this is extremely rare, an elderly person persistently flushing unsterilized water up their nose is a sure fire way to raise those odds. Since 1993, the CDC says, there have been at least 70 cases in the United States.

But when Cobbs operated to remove the mass, "it was just dead brain tissue", making it hard to determine what it actually was. It can kill within days, not months, according to the Seattle Times. Doctors gave her the medicine (and a cocktail of other anti-infection drugs), but she continued to get worse, according to the report. "At this point, the family made a decision to withdraw support", the report continued.

But how did the amoebas get in her brain in the first place?

Tissue taken from the woman's brain during the procedure would later confirm the presence of the amoeba, specifically Balamuthia mandrillaris - which cause a rare but potentially deadly brain-eating infection known as granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE), according to the publication. She was advised to try and flush out her sinuses and nasal cavity using water. "So that's what we suspect is the source of the infection", said Cobbs.

Health officials say Neti pots can be safe to use as long as you follow the instructions and fill them only with boiled or distilled water.

Researchers found that the single-celled organisms likely infected the woman's brain through her nasal cavity by way of a neti pot, a teapot shaped product used to rinse out the sinuses, about a year earlier.

"If you do use a neti pot, for instance, you should be very aware that it has to be absolute sterile water or sterile saline", said Dr. Cobb.

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