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

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

Doctors are warning people about the dangers of using nonsterile water in neti pots after it was determined that a 69-year-old Seattle woman died from brain-eating amoebas. This wasn't necessarily surprising, Cobbs told Live Science, as the woman had a history of breast cancer.

"The pathologist was able to look at it under a microscope and see the characteristic, actually the amoeba, in the tissue", said Dr. Charles Cobbs, Swedish Neuroscience Institute.

Cobbs said it's theoretically possible for other people to be infected with the same deadly amoeba, but that it's a very, very rare occurrence.

The doctor and his colleagues believe the woman may have used a common plastic device called a neti pot, which lets users irrigate their sinuses by flushing water through it. The researchers said the patient used tap water filtered through a store-bought water filter, instead of the recommended boiled or saline water. But what doctors initially thought was a brain tumor turned out to be rare amoebas that were attacking her brain.

The amoebas can be found in fresh-water sources around Puget Sound but aren't present in city-treated water, Liz Coleman, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Public Health division of the state's Department of Health, told the paper.

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.

The Times reported that the woman shot the contaminated water far up her nasal cavity toward olfactory nerves in the upper part of her nasal cavity, causing the brain-eating infection. It is the first fatality from this kind of infection in the state.

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First, she developed a raised, red sore on the bridge of her nose. They hope her case will let other doctors know to consider an amoeba infection if a patient gets a sore or rash on the nose after rinsing their sinuses.

However, using tap water with a neti pot isn't safe, according to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

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

In October, a 29-year-old man from New Jersey died from brain-eating amoebas.

Her case is reported this week in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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.

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