Doctors say amoebas in tap water turned woman's brain into 'bloody mush'

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Cobbs said he suspects that the woman got infected by using the neti pot with unsterilized water; indeed, rinsing the sinuses with unsterilized water has been linked in the past to another deadly brain-eating amoeba infection called Naegleria fowleri The CDC notes, however, that "little is known at this time about how a person becomes infected" with the amoeba.

But after performing brain surgery and taking a tissue sample, they realized she actually had a rare amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris. 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. It's believed that the woman used tap water she'd put in a pitcher with a filter.

"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. She arrived in the hospital's emergency room after suffering seizures. But when Cobbs operated, he discovered something much more disturbing.

It is thought the amoebas are primarily soil-based, but the "exact environmental niche is really unknown", Cope said in an email.

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

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated.

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.

Three types of amoebas have been identified as causing fatal brain infections, according to Jennifer Cope, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's unit that focuses on foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases.

A Seattle woman rinsed her sinuses with tap water.

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Normally, an extra effort is required to bring on an infection; it can not be contracted by drinking contaminated water. Infection can only occur when infected water goes up the nose.

She used the device over the span of a year.

"She had not been boiling water, using sterile water or using sterile saline".

Doctors who treated the woman also believe that the sore on her nose was connected.

They started treating the infection, to no avail. Instead, distilled or sterile water should be used, or boiled and cooled water.

"It's not something to be scared about because it's extraordinarily rare, but still there's a lot to learn", Cobbs said.

Wash and dry your hands.

Prepare the saline rinse, either with the prepared mixture supplied with the device, or one you make yourself.

Talk with your health care provider or pharmacist if the instructions do not clearly state how to use it or if you have any questions. However, parents should consult with their pediatrician before use on children.

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