Woman dies from rare brain-eating amoeba after using tap water

A woman who was told by her doctor to rinse her sinuses twice daily to clear up a chronic sinus infection died from a brain-eating amoeba.

The patient died about a month after finally receiving the correct diagnosis.

According to a study recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, doctors believe the woman likely became infected when she used tap water in her neti pot, a teapot-like vessel used to flush out nasal passages. "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. After examining a CT scan taken of her brain, physicians thought she had a tumor.

The rash didn't go away, despite several visits to a dermatologist, the report said. However, during surgery, they discovered it was something much more unusual, according to KCPQ. He removed it and sent a sample to a pathologist at Johns Hopkins for a second opinion. Later, the CDC determined that the infection was cause by the "brain-eating" amoeba B. mandrillaris.

"It's so exceedingly rare that I'd never heard of it", Cobbs said. But the woman's condition was deteriorating.

This time, the team contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who FedExed the hospital a brand-new drug to try, Cobbs said.

A variety of types of amoeba can cause deadly brain infections, which can also be contracted from getting fresh water in the nose while swimming. 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. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the USA, the CDC says.

'I think she was using (tap) water that had been through a water filter and had been doing that for about a year previously'. "This is so rare there have only been like 200 cases ever".

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. "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.

Dr Cobbs continued: 'It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water.

Most cases of brain-eating amoebas have been found in places like California, Arizona and Texas but Dr. Cobbs did say that over time, because of climate change, the amoeba could learn to survive in cooler areas like in Washington state.

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

Wash and dry your hands.

Follow the manufacturer's directions for use.

Talk with your health care provider or pharmacist if the instructions do not clearly state how to use it or if you have any questions. However, parents should consult with their pediatrician before use on children.

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