Woman Uses Neti Pot, Ends Up With Brain-Eating Amoeba

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A Seattle, Washington woman whose brain was partly a "ball of bloody mush" after rare brain-eating amoebas infected her likely contracted the organisms after she used a neti pot full of tap water to clear her sinuses, according to a report.

A Swedish Medical Center report on the woman's death says there are about 200 cases worldwide of this particular amoebic infection. However, instead of using sterile water, she used tap water that had been run through a store-bought filter. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoebae", Dr. Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center, told the Seattle Times. She arrived in the hospital's emergency room after suffering seizures. An initial CT scan revealed what doctors believed was a tumor. Doctors performed surgery to remove the mass, which they say had "unusual characteristics".

"He thought it looked suspicious for amoeba infection".

"It's so exceedingly rare that I'd never heard of it", Cobbs said.

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated. There were three similar US cases from 2008 to 2017.

According to Dr. Zara Patel, a professor of otolaryngology at Stanford University, when people use contaminated water to rinse their nose and sinuses, they can be at risk for aggressive infections. Because the water goes directly up your nose, it'll be close to your brain-so it's crucial no microbes are lingering in the liquid. There have been over 200 diagnoses of the disease worldwide, 70 of which were in the United States, per the CDC. She used tap water that had been filtered with a Brita Water Purifier. It can kill within days, not months, according to the Seattle Times. Now a case study recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases has shed light on how the amoeba entered her brain. "Because it wasn't directly from the nose to the brain, it somehow ended up in the brain way back here", said Cobbs, pointing to the back of his head. It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water.

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"It's not something to be scared about because it's extraordinarily rare, but still there's a lot to learn", Cobbs said.

Another type of brain-eating amoeba, commonly found in warm water and more generally known to doctors and the public, is called Naegleria fowleri.

Prepare the saline rinse, either with the prepared mixture supplied with the device, or one you make yourself.

Check that the device is clean and completely dry.

Follow the manufacturer's directions for use. Also consult your doctor before using any nasal irrigation systems if your immune system is weakened for any reason. However, parents should consult with their pediatrician before use on children.