Neti pot nightmare: BRAIN-EATING amoebas from tap water attack elderly woman

Adjust Comment Print

Rather than filling up the neti pot with saline or sterile water as is recommended she used tap water filtered through a store-bough filter, researchers found.

As noted in a new International Journal of Infectious Diseases case study, the infection was initially misdiagnosed as a brain tumour.

"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.

"However, unfortunately it is possible for these organisms to get into tap water as well at times, and that's why I do always counsel my patients to use distilled water when rinsing". A year later, the woman had a seizure, per USA Today.

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

Dr Cobbs told the Seattle Times: 'There were these amoebas all over the place just eating brain cells. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba".

According to the CDC, most cases of Balamuthia mandrillaris aren't diagnosed until immediately before death or after death, so doctors don't have a lot of experience treating the amoeba and know little about how a person becomes infected. That said, the woman's case was rare; there were only three similar cases in the US from 2008 to 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"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. Cobb.

According to the CDC, most brain infections from amoebas are associated with swimming in warm freshwater lakes and rivers. According to the CDC, the amoeba was discovered in 1986 and officially declared a new species in 1993. In this case, however, it was the neti rinse device that delivered the amoebas, via infected tap water, into her nasal passages and into her olfactory nerves, the scientists said. Alarmingly, the fatality rate is practically 100 per cent. "But in your nose, these organisms can stay alive in nasal passages and cause potentially serious infections", according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

With no diagnosis, her condition continued to decline and she developed more lesions on her brain.

Over the next several days, additional scans revealed that whatever was happening in her brain was getting worse. Within a week, she was in a coma, and her family chose to take her off life support.

The woman's brain infection went undiagnosed for so long because the type of amoeba she had was so uncommon and also moves very slowly, the Times stated.