If you're using a neti pot to pour water through your nasal passages and clean out your sinus cavities, you should only use sterile or saline water, doctors have warned after a Seattle woman died from a brain infection.
Earlier this year, an unnamed woman was admitted to the Swedish Medical Center after suffering a seizure. Doctors took a CT scan of her brain to determine the cause, finding what they initially thought was a tumor. She used tap water that had been filtered with a Brita Water Purifier.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rushed the anti-amoeba drug miltefosine to Seattle to try to save the woman's life, but she fell into a coma and died. In fact, her case of GAE is the first to be linked to the washing of the nasal cavity, according to Keenan Piper, a member of the Swedish team that produced the study. We believe that the neti pot she was using probably had gotten contaminated. The study was authored by Cobbs and others who worked on the woman's case. That report found there have been 109 cases of the amoeba reported in the US between 1974 and 2016. That aligns with what the victim experienced, as her first likely symptom was a red sore on her nose that doctors kept misdiagnosing as the common skin condition rosacea.
Kristen Maki, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Health, said in an email that "Large municipal water supplies ... have robust source water protection programs" and treatment programs, and she noted that "Well protected groundwater supplies are logically expected to be free of any such large amoeba" such as Balamuthia. I admittedly did not know that boiled or saline water is supposed to be used instead of tap water - and I suspect this comes as a surprise to a lot of other people, as well. And it's hard to grow the amoeba in the lab, because it doesn't grow on agar, a commonly used cell-culturing medium used in labs.
A person can not get infected from swallowing water contaminated with it, and it can not pass from person to person.
"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. In this case, the woman lived for about a year after becoming infected, according to the report. That's a type of amoeba that moves more slowly and can take weeks or months to cause death. "MRSA (a treatable bacterial infection) is everywhere, but we don't have a mechanism of injecting it into our brain", Cobbs said. The amoeba was discovered by CDC scientists in the brain of a dead mandrill baboon in 1986, and it was declared a new species of amoeba in 1993.