Seattle woman dies from brain-eating amoebas in neti pot

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

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 69-year-old Seattle resident died in February after undergoing brain surgery at Swedish Medical Center. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms - such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas - that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them.

'I think she was using (tap) water that had been through a water filter and had been doing that for about a year previously'. She'd experienced a seizure that weakened her left arm. It appeared to be a relatively common form of brain tumor, so they promptly put her on the operating table.

The rash didn't go away, despite several visits to a dermatologist, the report said.

"He thought it looked suspicious for amoeba infection". Cobbs said this was likely the first symptom of the amoeba, but its rarity makes the amoeba hard to quickly diagnose.

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated.

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Cobbs "took her immediately back to surgery ... and removed this thing that had been growing in size", he said.

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.

Cobbs said it's theoretically possible for other people to be infected with the same deadly amoeba, but that it's a very, very rare occurrence.

But fear not, you shouldn't be terrified of your tap water.

Normally, an extra effort is required to bring on an infection; it can not be contracted by drinking contaminated water. 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.

"After a month of using non-sterile water for nasal lavage without success, she developed a quarter-sized red raised rash on the right side of the bridge of her nose and raw red skin at the nasal opening, which was thought to be rosacea", the report states.

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"She had not been boiling water, using sterile water or using sterile saline".

But even though the woman used tap water, the odds were in her favor that she would have been fine.

They started treating the infection, to no avail.

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

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

Wash the device, and dry the inside with a paper towel or let it air dry between uses. 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.

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