Woman dies from rare brain-eating disease after using neti pot

Ben Davidson
December 9, 2018

According to the doctors who treated the woman, the non-sterile water that she used it thought to have contained Balamuthia mandrillaris, an amoeba that over the course of weeks to months can cause a very rare and nearly always fatal infection in the brain. There were three similar US cases from 2008 to 2017.

Cope said all three amoeba types have similar rates of prevalence, but Balamuthia mandrillaris is the least-recognized among the medical community because it is rarely documented, providing limited opportunity for research. She had been using water that had been put through a filter and maybe it had been sitting there and somehow the amoeba from somewhere else got in there.

She used the device over the span of a year. Rather than filling her neti pot with saline or sterile water, she used tap water filtered through a store-bought water filter. A rare amoeba (called Balamuthia mandrillaris) was feasting on her brain, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases (IJID).

Unlike N. fowleri, B. mandrillaris is much more hard to detect, according to the report. In this case, the woman lived for about a year after becoming infected, according to the report.

The woman, who was 69 years old, died in February - roughly a month after doctors discovered the amoeba in her brain and about a year after she was initially infected. It is the first fatality from this kind of infection in the state.

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The case report notes that GAE is rare and the CDC described it as a "very rare disease that is usually fatal".

The researchers weren't able to test the woman's tap water, but people can not be infected by simply swallowing water contaminated with the amoebas, according to Cobbs. In cases involving N. fowleri, for example, people have contracted the amoeba by jumping into a lake and having water shoot up their noses.

A neurosurgeon from Swedish Medical Center in Seattle said this is a rare situation but is warning patients to be sure to follow the directions when using a Neti pot for nasal congestion, and use only boiled or distilled water. But unfortunately, the infection was too severe, and the woman died.

After contracting the amoebas, the woman developed a red sore on her nose. "Repeat CT imaging demonstrated further hemorrhage into the original resection cavity". In the meantime, the scientists recommend that doctors conduct amoeba testing in cases of nasal sores and ring-enhancing brain lesions. "At this point, the family chose to withdraw support", the report continued.

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

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