Woman dies from brain-eating amoeba after using neti pot

When a 69-year old Seattle woman had a seizure earlier this year, doctors at Swedish Medical Center thought she may have had a brain tumor.

A month later, the woman died.

A Swedish Medical Center report on the woman's death says there are about 200 cases worldwide of this particular amoebic infection.

"It's such an incredibly uncommon disease it was not on anyone's radar that this initial nose sore would be related to her brain", Piper said.

After she died, doctors determined the specific infection had been caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris. "I think she was using water that had been through a water filter and had been doing that for about a year previously", Dr. Cobb said. However during surgery, they discovered it was something much more unusual.

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. But the woman's condition was deteriorating. When the doctors looked at these samples of the tissue under the microscope, they could see the amoebas.

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"Improper nasal irrigation has been reported as a method of infection for the comparably insidious amoeba", the doctors say in the research paper about the Seattle woman. "There were these amoeba all over the place just eating brain cells". The CDC says it's possible that the amoeba may also live in water.

The woman had been prescribed a neti pot to flush out her nasal cavity because she had a sinus infection, per a case report published in International Journal of Infectious Diseases. In healthy people with good immune systems, an infection is extremely rare.

Past year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also issued a warning that improper use of Neti pots and other nasal irrigation systems could lead to risky infections, including one with a brain-eating amoeba. For a month, she tried to get rid of it using a neti pot with tap water instead of using sterile water, as is recommended. 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.

It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water.

"Most of the cases reported in the United States where this happen are from people using shallow well water or other sources that are known to be at higher risk of contamination", she told Global News. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the US, the CDC says.

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