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Seattle woman dies after contracting rare form of brain-eating amoeba

08 December 2018

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. Then the numbness began on her left side.

A woman who met a tragic fate after routinely rinsing out her sinuses is thought to have died because she put tap water in her neti pot. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba".

"For all intents and purposes, it looked like a tumor", said senior case report author Dr. Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Although this is extremely rare, an elderly person persistently flushing unsterilized water up their nose is a sure fire way to raise those odds.

The woman died of a rare condition called Balamuthia, which has killed around 200 people worldwide in the last 20 years. "There were these amoeba all over the place just eating brain cells". The sores were originally diagnosed as rosacea, according to the Seattle Times. "At this point, the family chose to withdraw support", the report continued. It was microscopic amoebas that were feasting on her brain.

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

"There have been 34 reported infections in the the 10 years from 2008 to 2017, despite millions of recreational water exposures each year", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "She wasn't boiling the water or using sterile saline, she was filtering it, but maybe somehow it got contaminated".

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. "So that's what we suspect is the source of the infection", Cobbs said, according to KIRO. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the US, the CDC says.

Researchers found that the single-celled organisms likely infected the woman's brain through her nasal cavity by way of a neti pot, a teapot shaped product used to rinse out the sinuses, about a year earlier.

The woman's doctors say they weren't able to definitely link the infection to her neti pot, as the water supply to her home was not tested for the amoeba.

Seattle woman dies after contracting rare form of brain-eating amoeba