Doctors blame tap water in neti pot for brain-eating amoeba

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

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

"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. Cobbs.

The Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal says 90% of patients that contracted Balamuthia have died. The report states she used tap water that had been filtered by a Brita water purifier.

One year later, she had a seizure, and "lost cognition", according to the report.

The 69-year-old woman, from Seattle, died in February after undergoing brain surgery at Swedish Medical Centre.

"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center, told the Times. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba", Cobbs added.

Even though such infections are very rare, there were three similar US cases from 2008 to 2017. This single-celled organism is not to be confused with Naegleria fowleri, another brain-eating amoeba that also lives in freshwater. It was microscopic amoebas that were feasting on her brain.

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 in Washington state.

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. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the US, the CDC says. Alarmingly, the fatality rate is practically 100 per cent.

In the case report, the doctors said there was evidence of amoeba infection from neti pots before, but that they did not test the water their patients had been using, and so they could not be sure. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms - such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas - that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them.

You can't get the infection from drinking contaminated water or swimming in a properly chlorinated pool, and it hasn't been shown to spread through vapor from a hot shower or humidifier, according to the CDC. Her doctor told her it was rosacea and prescribed an ointment, according to the report. It wasn't until the woman suffered a stroke, and had CT scans done of her brain, that the brain tumour was diagnosed - or more accurately, misdiagnosed.

Health officials suggest using only distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to rinse sinuses.

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