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

"If you do use a neti pot, for instance, you should be very aware that it has to be absolute sterile water or sterile saline", said Dr. Cobb. What doctors initially thought was a brain tumor turned out to be a much deadlier condition, one that was literally eating the woman alive.

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.

"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center, told the Seattle Times. She entered surgery the next day. At first doctors thought the woman had a tumor, as she had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer. This wasn't necessarily surprising, Cobbs told Live Science, as the woman had a history of breast cancer. The woman died about a month later. These sorts of infections are quite rare, but what's unique about this incident is that it's the "first case of Balamuthia mandrillaris brain infection suspected from nasal lavage", according to the case study, which was authored by Swedish scientists and the doctors who worked on the case, Cobbs included. In the meantime, the scientists recommend that doctors conduct amoeba testing in cases of nasal sores and ring-enhancing brain lesions.

By nasal lavage the researchers are referring to the use of a neti pot - a teapot-shaped device that relieves sinus pressure by flushing water through the nasal cavity. It's a simple contraption that can be purchased at major retailers across the US. Although the risk of infection to the brain is extremely low, people who use neti pots or other nasal-irrigation devices can almost eliminate it by following directions printed on the devices, including using only saline or sterilized water, Maree said.

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

It is also acceptable to use a filter specifically created to trap potentially infectious organisms. Infectious disease doctors contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and they sent medicine for the rare condition, but the woman could not be saved.

An elderly woman was killed by a brain-eating amoeba after using filtered tap water to clear her sinuses.

"However, unfortunately it is possible for these organisms to get into tap water as well at times, and that's why I do always counsel my patients to use distilled water when rinsing". It moves slowly and can take weeks or months to cause death.

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