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

Alicia Farmer
December 8, 2018

Doctors are warning people about the dangers of using nonsterile water in neti pots after it was determined that a 69-year-old Seattle woman died from brain-eating amoebas.

Dr. Cobbs said she most likely became infected by Balamuthia mandrillaris, an amoeba that kills the brain cells slowly over time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a species of amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, one of the best-documented causes of such infections, is frequently present in fresh water, though infections are rare.

According to a report published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, doctors conducted a CT scan on the woman and noticed a legion in her 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. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba". So, he just took a sample and sent it to neuropathologists at Johns Hopkins University for further analysis. They hope her case will let other doctors know to consider an amoeba infection if a patient gets a sore or rash on the nose after rinsing their sinuses.

She contracted an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris. "There were these amoeba all over the place just eating brain cells".

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According to the doctors who treated the woman, the non-sterile water that she used it thought to have contained Balamuthia mandrillaris, an amoeba that over the course of weeks to months can cause a very rare and nearly always fatal infection in the brain. Within a week, she was in a coma, and her family chose to take her off life support. There have been over 200 diagnoses of the disease worldwide, 70 of which were in the U.S., per the CDC.

The contaminated water went up the woman's nose "toward [the] olfactory nerves in the upper part of her nasal cavity", The Seattle Times reported, which ultimately caused the infection which first appeared as a red sore on her nose.

"We believe that she was using a device to irrigate her sinuses that some people use called a neti pot. Often patients will think that using bottled water is fine and assume it is distilled, it that is actually not the case". "So that's what we suspect is the source of the infection", Cobbs said, according to KIRO.

"It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water", Dr. Cobbs said.

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