Published: Sat, December 08, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

A Seattle woman died of an infection after using her neti pot

A Seattle woman died of an infection after using her neti pot

Cobbs: "This is an extraordinarily unusual disease that has only been reported a few hundred times in the world".

The 69-year-old Seattle resident died in February after undergoing brain surgery at Swedish Medical Center. At first doctors thought the woman had a tumor, as she had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer.

The woman, doctors realized, had been infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, a type of amoeba that can infect the brain and cause massive damage. But the next day, they discovered that her brain was teeming with the amoeba. He took a sample and sent it for analysis.

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated.

According to the report, lab results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the woman's brain tissue tested positive for Balamuthia mandrillaris, a rare brain-eating amoeba that is typically found in soil.

According to a study recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, doctors believe the woman likely became infected when she used tap water in her neti pot, a teapot-like vessel used to flush out nasal passages.

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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.

"It's so exceedingly rare that I'd never heard of it", Cobbs said.

"There were these amoebas all over the place just eating brain cells", Cobbs tells the Seattle Times. The CDC says it's possible that the amoeba may also live in water.

According to Dr. Zara Patel, a professor of otolaryngology at Stanford University, when people use contaminated water to rinse their nose and sinuses, they can be at risk for aggressive infections. However, very rarely, there have been deaths associated with an amoeba in tap or faucet water going up the nose. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the USA, the CDC says.

However, using tap water with a neti pot isn't safe, according to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Although extremely rare, B. mandrillari is deadly, with nearly 90 percent of cases of infection resulting in death.

Past 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 risky infections, including one with a brain-eating amoeba. 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.

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