Published: Sun, December 09, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

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

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

The woman's brain surgery and subsequent biopsy finally revealed the true nature of her condition. She wasn't immediately aware of any other local cases of infection.

In order to prevent any risk of infection, people should always read the instructions on a neti pot and only use saline or sterile water.

She used the neti pot for about a month to treat her sinus infection, and developed red, rash-like sores around her nose.

So, in an attempt to give the 69-year-old Seattle woman some relief, doctors recommended that she use a neti pot regularly to rinse out her sinuses.

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Then, the left side of the woman's body started shaking. She arrived in the hospital's emergency room after suffering seizures. Doctors took a CT scan of her brain to determine the cause, finding what they initially thought was a tumor. It appeared to be a relatively common form of brain tumor, so they promptly put her on the operating table. The mass was growing, and new lesions were starting to show up.

"I think we are going to see a lot more infections that we see south (move) north, as we have a warming of our environment", said Cynthia Maree, a Swedish infectious-disease doctor who co-authored the case study about the woman's condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a species of amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, one of the best-documented causes of such infections, is frequently present in fresh water, though infections are rare.

The study was authored by Swedish doctors and researchers who worked on her case, including Cobbs. Alarmingly, the fatality rate is practically 100 per cent. In cases involving N. fowleri, for example, people have contracted the amoeba by jumping into a lake and having water shoot up their noses. Although the risk of infection to the brain is extremely low, people who use neti pots or other nasal-irrigation devices can almost eliminate it by following directions printed on the devices, including using only saline or sterilized water, Maree said. "This precedent led us to suspect the same route of entry for the. amoeba in our case". The woman told her doctor she had used tap water in a Neti pot, instead of saline or sterile water, CBS affiliate KIRO reports. And it's hard to grow the amoeba in the lab, because it doesn't grow on agar, a commonly used cell-culturing medium used in labs.

Kristen Maki, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Health, said in an email that "Large municipal water supplies. have robust source water protection programs" and treatment programs, and she noted that "Well protected groundwater supplies are logically expected to be free of any such large amoeba" such as Balamuthia.

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