The Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal says 90% of patients that contracted Balamuthia have died. She had been using water that had been put through a filter and maybe it had been sitting there and somehow the amoeba from somewhere else got in there. In this case, the woman lived for about a year after becoming infected, according to the report.
Doctors performing brain surgery on the 69-year-old woman in January were shocked when what they had initially thought was a tumor, based on a CT scan, turned out to be a swarm of deadly amoebas munching away at her insides.
Cobbs: "This is an amoeba that is just one of the things in the environment, so we're exposed to it all the time probably, and it's not really known to be something that injures humans but in a certain, extremely rare situation it can cause an infection like this". "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba".
The woman, doctors realized, had been infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, a type of amoeba that can infect the brain and cause massive damage.
This time, the team contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who FedExed the hospital a brand-new drug to try, Cobbs said.
By nasal lavage the researchers are referring to the use of a neti pot - a teapot-shaped device that relieves sinus pressure by flushing water through the nasal cavity. "There were these amoeba all over the place just eating brain cells". It was microscopic amoebas that were feasting on her brain.
In the case report, the doctors said there was evidence of amoeba infection from neti pots before, but that they did not test the water their patients had been using, and so they could not be sure.
The amoeba was discovered in 1986.
As in the Seattle woman's case, the infections are "almost uniformly fatal", with a death rate of more than 89%, according to the doctors who treated her and the CDC.
According to Dr. Zara Patel, a professor of otolaryngology at Stanford University, when people use contaminated water to rinse their nose and sinuses, they can be at risk for aggressive infections.
For this poor woman, who died from the brain infection this past February, the condition had first manifested as a skin rash on her nose. The sores were originally diagnosed as rosacea, according to the Seattle Times. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the USA, the CDC says. "At this point, the family made a decision to withdraw support", the report continued. As long as we wash the containers properly and use either boiled or saline water we should be OK.