Medicine

Seattle woman dies from brain-eating amoebas in neti pot

Seattle woman dies from brain-eating amoebas in neti pot

The cause: She used a neti pot filled with non-sterile water to treat a sinus infection. I admittedly did not know that boiled or saline water is supposed to be used instead of tap water - and I suspect this comes as a surprise to a lot of other people, as well.

A year on, the woman started to develop some unusual symptoms, such as a odd red rash around the outside of her nasal passage.

When a 69-year old Seattle woman had a seizure earlier this year, doctors at Swedish Medical Center thought she may have had a brain tumor.

"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", Dr. Charles Cobbs, neurosurgeon at Swedish told The Seattle Times.

The woman, doctors realized, had been infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, a type of amoeba that can infect the brain and cause massive damage. That said, the woman's case was rare; there were only three similar cases in the USA from 2008 to 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

After a month of clearing her sinuses with the non-sterile water, a quarter-sized red rash appeared on the right side of her nose. This single-celled organism is not to be confused with Naegleria fowleri, another brain-eating amoeba that also lives in freshwater.

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"He thought it looked suspicious for amoeba infection".

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 unsafe infections, including one with a brain-eating amoeba. Unlike N. fowleri, however, which kills its human victims in a matter of days, the B. mandrillaris amoeba requires more time to inflict its damage. It was declared a distinct species in 1993, according to the report.

According to a study 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.

As in the Seattle woman's case, the infections are "almost uniformly fatal", with a death rate of more than 89%, according to the doctors who treated her and the CDC.

A person can not get infected from swallowing water contaminated with it, and it can not pass from person to person. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the US, the CDC says.

A CT scan revealed a 1.5-centimeter (0.6 inches) lesion in her brain. Within a week, she was in a coma, and her family made a decision to take her off life support. It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water.


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