Doctors blame tap water in neti pot for brain-eating amoeba

Laverne Higgins
December 8, 2018

The 69-year-old, whose name was not given, had a lingering sinus infection.

In order to prevent any risk of infection, people should always read the instructions on a neti pot and only use saline or sterile water.

The answer lies in a common instrument known as a neti pot, a teapot-shaped product used to rinse out the sinuses and nasal cavity.

A study published by the International Journal of Infectious Diseases determined that the woman contracted the brain infection a year earlier by using a neti pot filled with nonsterile water to treat a sinus infection.

The specific amoeba that killed the Seattle woman moves slowly, which is why it went undetected for a year.

First, she developed a raised, red sore on the bridge of her nose. Her doctor told her it was rosacea and prescribed an ointment, according to the report.

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Then, the left side of the woman's body started shaking. The mass was growing, and new lesions were starting to show up.

"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.

Lab results later revealed that the infection in her brain and nose rash were caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris, which is often associated with a disease called granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE), according to the Center for Disease Control.

The amoeba was discovered in 1986. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the US, the CDC says. The fatality rate is almost 100 percent. There were three similar US cases from 2008 to 2017. It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that only distilled or sterile water be used for sinus irrigation. "This precedent led us to suspect the same route of entry for the. amoeba in our case".

Doctors performing brain surgery on the 69-year-old woman in January were shocked when what they had initially thought was a tumor, based on a CT scan, turned out to be a swarm of deadly amoebas munching away at her insides.

Kristen Maki, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Health, said in an email that "Large municipal water supplies. have robust source water protection programs" and treatment programs, and she noted that "Well protected groundwater supplies are logically expected to be free of any such large amoeba" such as Balamuthia.

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