Seattle woman dies after contracting rare form of brain-eating amoeba

Woman Uses Neti Pot, Ends Up With Brain-Eating Amoeba

It can kill within days, not months, according to the Seattle Times.

A neurosurgeon from Swedish Medical Center in Seattle said this is a rare situation but is warning patients to be sure to follow the directions when using a Neti pot for nasal congestion, and use only boiled or distilled water.

The woman, who was 69 years old, died in February - roughly a month after doctors discovered the amoeba in her brain and about a year after she was initially infected. It's believed that the woman used tap water she'd put in a pitcher with a filter.

But when Cobbs operated to remove the mass, "it was just dead brain tissue", making it hard to determine what it actually was. 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.

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated. Dr. Cobb says she most likely became infected by the amoeba after treating a common sinus problem with tap water.

"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.

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"The pathologist was able to look at it under a microscope and see the characteristic, actually the amoeba, in the tissue", said Dr. Charles Cobbs, Swedish Neuroscience Institute.

"There were these amoebae all over the place just eating brain cells". In healthy people with good immune systems, an infection is extremely rare. "She wasn't boiling the water or using sterile saline, she was filtering it, but maybe somehow it got contaminated".

Previous year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also issued a warning that improper use of Neti pots and other nasal irrigation systems could lead to unsafe infections, including one with a brain-eating amoeba. That said, the woman's case was rare; there were only three similar cases in the US from 2008 to 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As reported in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the story began when a Seattle-based woman visited the doctors with a nasty chronic sinus infection.

In 2011, Louisiana health officials warned residents not to use nonsterilized tap water in neti pots after the deaths of two people who were exposed to Naegleria fowleri while flushing their nasal passages. Although extremely rare, B. mandrillari is deadly, with nearly 90 percent of cases of infection resulting in death.

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