Brain-eating amoebas kill woman who used tap water in neti pot

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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.

"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", Dr. Charles Cobbs, neurosurgeon at Swedish, said in a phone interview.

"There were these amoebas all over the place just eating brain cells", Cobbs tells the Seattle Times. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba".

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.

The 69-year-old Seattle woman stumped doctors earlier this year, when she was admitted to hospital after suffering a seizure. Rather than filling her neti pot with saline or sterile water, she used tap water filtered through a store-bought water filter.

They think that she did so with tap water for a year, and that this may have led to the amoeba infecting her brain.

Kristen Maki, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Health, said in an email that "Large municipal water supplies. have robust source water protection programs" and treatment programs, and she noted that "Well protected groundwater supplies are logically expected to be free of any such large amoeba" such as Balamuthia.

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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.

A month later, the woman died. It is the first fatality from this kind of infection in the state.

Eventually she reportedly developed a rash on her nose and raw skin near her nostrils, which was misdiagnosed as rosacea, a skin condition. This amoeba was not even known 20 years ago hardly.

But they would soon learn that what was inside the woman's skull was not a tumor at all.

However, using tap water with a neti pot isn't safe, according to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). That said, the woman's case was rare; there were only three similar cases in the USA from 2008 to 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New Jersey health officials linked a man's death to N. fowleri in October. "People should just go about their normal lives", he said.

It is thought the amoebas are primarily soil-based, but the "exact environmental niche is really unknown", Cope said in an email. There are molds and fungi that can kill you if it infects your brain.

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