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

Finally, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center, where the woman was being treated, opened her skull to examine her brain and found that it was infected with amoebae. The woman died a month later, The Seattle Times reports.

The 69 year-old, who has not been named, was taken to the Swedish Medical Center near her home in Seattle after suffering a seizure this year.

"It's such an incredibly uncommon disease it was not on anyone's radar that this initial nose sore would be related to her brain", Piper said.

Lab results later revealed that the infection in her brain and nose rash were caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris, which is often associated with a disease called granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE), according to the Center for Disease Control.

Health officials suggest using only distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to rinse sinuses.

But when Cobbs operated to remove the mass, "it was just dead brain tissue", making it hard to determine what it actually was. A specimen was sent to Johns Hopkins University for analysis.

Dr. Charles Cobbs said when he operated it was just dead brain tissue.

The woman's condition quickly deteriorated.

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"We didn't have any clue what was going on", he added.

Dr. Cobbs says the woman carried an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris that kills the brain cells slowly over time.

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

"There were these amoebae all over the place just eating brain cells". The CDC says it's possible that the amoeba may also live in water.

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. In healthy people with good immune systems, an infection is extremely rare. For a month, she tried to get rid of it using a neti pot with tap water instead of using sterile water, as is recommended.

The doctor and his colleagues believe the woman may have used a common plastic device called a neti pot, which lets users irrigate their sinuses by flushing water through it.

She used the device over the span of a year.

"Most of the cases reported in the United States where this happen are from people using shallow well water or other sources that are known to be at higher risk of contamination", she told Global News. That said, the woman's case was rare; there were only three similar cases in the US from 2008 to 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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