Fatal brain-eating amoeba may have come from woman's neti pot

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"For all intents and purposes, it looked like a tumor", said senior case report author Dr. Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.

The contaminated water went up the woman's nose "toward [the] olfactory nerves in the upper part of her nasal cavity", The Seattle Times reported, which ultimately caused the infection which first appeared as a red sore on her nose.

The 69-year-old Seattle resident died in February after undergoing brain surgery at Swedish Medical Center.

In addition, images from brain scans may resemble other conditions that are more common, including tumors and bacterial infections, the authors wrote.

The woman, doctors realized, had been infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, a type of amoeba that can infect the brain and cause massive damage. That tap water was filled with tiny amoebas that ate away at her brain cells.

But after performing brain surgery and taking a tissue sample, they realized she actually had a rare amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris.

Doctors took the woman into critical care and quickly sent word to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which rushed a shipment of an anti-amoeba drug called miltefosine.

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba".

The woman had been prescribed a neti pot to flush out her nasal cavity because she had a sinus infection, per a case report published in International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

"It's so exceedingly rare that I'd never heard of it", Cobbs said.

Dr Cobbs told the Seattle Times: 'There were these amoebas all over the place just eating brain cells.

"It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water", Dr. Cobbs said.

"We believe that she was using a device to irrigate her sinuses that some people use called a neti pot". According to the CDC, the amoeba was discovered in 1986 and officially declared a new species in 1993. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms - such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas - that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them.

In the case report, the doctors said there was evidence of amoeba infection from neti pots before, but that they did not test the water their patients had been using, and so they could not be sure. Although extremely rare, B. mandrillari is deadly, with nearly 90 percent of cases of infection resulting in death. There have been over 200 diagnoses of the disease worldwide, 70 of which were in the United States, per the CDC.

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