A 69-year-old Seattle woman died after she contracted a rare brain-eating amoeba from using tap water in a neti pot.
The woman had gone to the doctor for a chronic sinus infection and was instructed to use a saline irrigation to clear out her sinuses, but while sterile water or saline is recommended, she used water filtered by a Brita Water Purifier, according to a case study in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Eventually she reportedly developed a rash on her nose and raw skin near her nostrils, which was misdiagnosed as rosacea, a skin condition. When the rash didn’t respond to treatment, doctors were temporarily stumped, the journal states.
One year later, she had a seizure, and “lost cognition,” according to the report. When doctors did a CT scan, they found what they thought was a tumor but later discovered was dead tissue in her brain during an operation.
With no diagnosis, her condition continued to decline and she developed more lesions on her brain. During surgery at John Hopkins Hospital to remove the lesions, doctors ultimately determined she had an “amoebic infection.”
They started treating the infection, to no avail.
“Despite aggressive anti-amoebic therapy, the patient’s condition continued to deteriorate,” the report states. “Within 1 week she was more somnolent and then became comatose…. At this point, the family decided to withdraw support.”
After she died, doctors determined the specific infection had been caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris.
It is extremely rare, with only 200 cases reported worldwide.