Doctors blame tap water in neti pot for brain-eating amoeba

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

A Seattle woman unwittingly injected deadly brain-eating amoebas into her nasal cavity when she rinsed out her sinuses with tap water, according to a new report.

"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 Seattle's Swedish Medical Center, told the 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", Cobbs added.

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The woman, doctors realized, had been infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, a type of amoeba that can infect the brain and cause massive damage.

"This is extremely rare".

The specific amoeba that killed the Seattle woman moves slowly, which is why it went undetected for a year. "There's been about 200 cases worldwide", Dr. Cobbs said.

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Most cases of brain-eating amoebas have been found in places like California, Arizona and Texas but Dr. Cobbs did say that over time, because of climate change, the amoeba could learn to survive in cooler areas like in Washington state.

Unfortunately, this woman became one of these fatalities, dying just one month after the surgery.

"There have been 34 reported infections in the U.S.in the 10 years from 2008 to 2017, despite millions of recreational water exposures each year", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC rushed a brand-new drug to doctors in an effort to save the woman, but she died from the infection. Within a week, she was in a coma, and her family made a decision to take her off life support.

Neti pots are useful for flushing out clogged sinuses, but it's important to do it the right way. Her doctor had advised nasal irrigation as a way to clear an ongoing sinus problem, but she filled it with tap water, filtered using a Brita Water Purifier, rather than the sterile or saline solution that one is supposed to use in a neti pot.

The story may sound alarmist, but it has a valuable takeaway message: Don't risk using tap water when it comes to neti pots.

"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. Cobbs.

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