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

08 December, 2018, 02:51 | Author: Sherman Richardson
  • An MRI of the Seattle woman’s brain in January 2018. Doctors initially thought the ringed lesion on the left was a tumor because the woman had a history of breast cancer

Doctors came across something they never suspected while carrying out brain surgery on a 69-year-old woman in the United States: a slushy mess of dead brain tissue.

As such, when the 69-year-old shot the tap water up her nasal cavity, she essentially injected the brain-eating infection known as granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE).

The amoeba is a single-cell organism that can cause fatal disease in humans and lives in warm soil and water.

According to a report published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, doctors conducted a CT scan on the woman and noticed a legion in her brain.

"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, where the woman was treated, told the Times. Although this is extremely rare, an elderly person persistently flushing unsterilized water up their nose is a sure fire way to raise those odds. "There were these amoeba all over the place just eating brain cells".

Doctors took the woman into critical care and quickly sent word to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which rushed a shipment of an anti-amoeba drug called miltefosine. 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). "At this point, the family made a decision to withdraw support", the report continued.

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She contracted an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris. It can kill within days, not months, according to the Seattle Times.

If you're using a neti pot to pour water through your nasal passages and clean out your sinus cavities, you should only use sterile or saline water, doctors have warned after a Seattle woman died from a brain infection.

Neti pots are used to pour saline into one nostril and out of the other to irrigate the sinuses, usually to fight allergies or infections. "Often patients will think that using bottled water is fine and assume it is distilled, it that is actually not the case". She used tap water that had been filtered with a Brita Water Purifier.

While this type of brain infection is rare, doctors are urging people to use sterile water any time they use a neti pot.

In the case report, the doctors said there was evidence of amoeba infection from neti pots before, but that they did not test the water their patients had been using, and so they could not be sure.

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