Medicine

Brain-eating amoeba may have come from neti pot

Brain-eating amoeba may have come from neti pot

The woman died a month later, The Seattle Times reports.

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. At first doctors thought the woman had a tumor, as she had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer. She had been using water that had been put through a filter and maybe it had been sitting there and somehow the amoeba from somewhere else got in there.

However, an examination of tissue taken from her brain during surgery showed that her problem wasn't a tumor at all. During surgery at John Hopkins Hospital to remove the lesions, doctors ultimately determined she had an "amoebic infection".

"Improper nasal irrigation has been reported as a method of infection for the comparably insidious amoeba", the doctors say in the research paper about the Seattle woman.

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated.

The woman turned out to have an infection with a "brain-eating" amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris.

'We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue, we could see it was the amoeba'.

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"It's so exceedingly rare that I'd never heard of it", Cobbs said. Researchers believe that she contracted the amoeba while using the neti pot because she used filtered tap water rather than saline or sterile water, the latter of which is recommended.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rushed the anti-amoeba drug miltefosine to Seattle to try to save the woman's life, but she fell into a coma and died.

Most cases of brain eating amoebas have been found in places like California, Arizona and Texas but Dr. Cobbs did say that over time, because of climate change, the amoeba could learn to survive in cooler areas like here in Washington State. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the US, the CDC says.

Neti pots are used to pour saline into one nostril and out of the other to irrigate the sinuses, usually to fight allergies or infections.

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.

"Most of the cases reported in the United States where this happen are from people using shallow well water or other sources that are known to be at higher risk of contamination", she told Global News.