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


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. Upon further investigation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention subsequently made a decision to test the water at a Texas surf resort he visited before getting sick.

The woman's doctors say they think her death was ultimately tied to her use of the Neti pot. Rather than filling her neti pot with saline or sterile water, she used tap water filtered through a store-bought water filter. Her doctor tells The Seattle Times there was "amoeba all over the place just eating brain cells". Now a case study recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases has shed light on how the amoeba entered her brain. Unlike N. fowleri, however, which kills its human victims in a matter of days, the B. mandrillaris amoeba requires more time to inflict its damage. Doctors gave her the medicine (and a cocktail of other anti-infection drugs), but she continued to get worse, according to the report. It was declared a distinct species in 1993, according to the report.

Unfortunately, this woman became one of these fatalities, dying just one month after the surgery. Although extremely rare, B. mandrillari is deadly, with nearly 90 percent of cases of infection resulting in death.

You can't get the infection from drinking contaminated water or swimming in a properly chlorinated pool, and it hasn't been shown to spread through vapor from a hot shower or humidifier, according to the CDC.

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Shortly after contracting the amoeba, the woman developed a red sore on her nose, which was misdiagnosed as the common skin condition rosacea. In cases involving N. fowleri, for example, people have contracted the amoeba by jumping into a lake and having water shoot up their noses.

When Cobbs first operated on her, he discovered a tumor the size of a dime. In this case, however, it was the neti rinse device that delivered the amoebas, via infected tap water, into her nasal passages and into her olfactory nerves, the scientists said.

Doctors came across something they never suspected while carrying out brain surgery on a 69-year-old woman in the U.S.: a slushy mess of dead brain tissue. Repeat CT imaging demonstrated further haemorrhage into the original resection cavity. "There's been about 200 cases world-wide", Dr. Cobb said. "At this point, the family chose to withdraw support", the report continued.

Health officials say Neti pots can be safe to use as long as you follow the instructions and fill them only with boiled or distilled water.