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.
"I think we are going to see a lot more infections that we see south (move) north, as we have a warming of our environment", said Cynthia Maree, a Swedish infectious-disease doctor who co-authored the case study about the woman's condition.
Cope said all three amoeba types have similar rates of prevalence, but Balamuthia mandrillaris is the least-recognized among the medical community because it is rarely documented, providing limited opportunity for research.
After a month of clearing her sinuses with the non-sterile water, a quarter-sized red rash appeared on the right side of her nose.
The woman filled the neti pot with tap water, doctors said. Later, the CDC determined that the infection was cause by the "brain-eating" amoeba B. mandrillaris.
The amoeba was discovered in 1986.
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. The woman's brain surgery and subsequent biopsy finally revealed the true nature of her condition. Globally, only 200 infections have ever been recorded, of which 70 occurred in the United States. In cases involving N. fowleri, for example, people have contracted the amoeba by jumping into a lake and having water shoot up their noses.
Most cases of brain eating amoebas have been found in places like California, Arizona and Texas but Dr. Cobbs did say that over time, because of climate change, the amoeba could learn to survive in cooler areas like here in Washington State. Although the risk of infection to the brain is extremely low, people who use neti pots or other nasal-irrigation devices can almost eliminate it by following directions printed on the devices, including using only saline or sterilized water, Maree said. "Repeat CT imaging demonstrated further hemorrhage into the original resection cavity. At this point, the family made a decision to withdraw support". The study was authored by Cobbs and others who worked on the woman's case. But unfortunately, the infection was too severe, and the woman died.
Dr Cobbs continued: 'It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water.