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

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

As reported by the Seattle Times, a woman was admitted to a local hospital's emergency department after suffering a seizure in January. A CT scan showed an abnormal lesion in her brain that indicated she might have a tumor, so doctors sent a sample of tissue for testing. "It was just dead brain tissue", he tells Live Science.

Lab results later revealed that the infection in her brain and nose rash were caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris, which is often associated with a disease called granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE), according to the Center for Disease Control.

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.

As a user of neti pots, this comes as a shock to me. The report states she used tap water that had been filtered by a Brita water purifier. It was microscopic amoebas that were feasting on her brain. Unlike N. fowleri, however, which kills its human victims in a matter of days, the B. mandrillaris amoeba requires more time to inflict its damage.

After the operation, the woman's "condition continued to deteriorate", and within one week she had fallen into a coma, per the case report.

These amoebas traditionally live in the warm climates of South and Central America, but climate change may be opening up new habitats - including in northern USA states like Washington.

The amoeba was discovered in 1986. Although extremely rare, B. mandrillari is deadly, with nearly 90 percent of cases of infection resulting in death.

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A person can not get infected from swallowing water contaminated with it, and it can not pass from person to person.

The amoeba is similar to Naegleria fowleri, which has been the culprit in several high-profile cases.

Despite the surgeons' best efforts, the woman died a month later. Not suspecting anything particularly unusual, her doctors diagnosed it as a rosacea, a common skin condition, with treatments lasting for about a year.

They think that she did so with tap water for a year, and that this may have led to the amoeba infecting her brain. Then the numbness began on her left side. "At this point, the family chose to withdraw support".

Indeed, the incident shows how notoriously hard it is to correctly diagnose this kind of infection. In healthy people with good immune systems, an infection is extremely rare. "There's been about 200 cases worldwide", Dr. Cobbs said.

Health officials say Neti pots can be safe to use as long as you follow the instructions and fill them only with boiled or distilled water.

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