Published: Sat, December 08, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Doctors blame tap water in neti pot for brain-eating amoeba

Doctors blame tap water in neti pot for brain-eating amoeba

The woman, a Swedish Medical Center patient, likely contracted the brain-eating amoeba from the water in her nasal rinse, Swedish doctors said.

Cobbs: "This is an extraordinarily unusual disease that has only been reported a few hundred times in the world".

A neurosurgeon from Swedish Medical Center in Seattle said this is a rare situation but is warning patients to be sure to follow the directions when using a Neti pot for nasal congestion, and use only boiled or distilled water. An initial CT scan revealed what doctors believed was a tumor.

Researchers found that the single-celled organisms likely infected the woman's brain through her nasal cavity by way of a neti pot, a teapot shaped product used to rinse out the sinuses, about a year earlier. They got worse and worse over a year, until she had a seizure - and doctors discovered the amoebas chewing away at her brain. A specimen was sent to Johns Hopkins University for analysis.

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated.

"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.

Tissue taken from the woman's brain during the procedure would later confirm the presence of the amoeba, specifically Balamuthia mandrillaris - which cause a rare but potentially deadly brain-eating infection known as granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE), according to the publication.

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After using the prescribed neti pot for a month, she developed a rash near her nose, which was misdiagnosed as rosacea.

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

"There have been 34 reported infections in the U.S.in the 10 years from 2008 to 2017, despite millions of recreational water exposures each year", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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.

Even though such infections are very rare, there were three similar US cases from 2008 to 2017.

Dr Cobbs continued: 'It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water.

Unlike N. fowleri, B. mandrillaris is much more hard to detect, according to the report. That said, the woman's case was rare; there were only three similar cases in the USA from 2008 to 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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