'We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue, we could see it was the amoeba'.
She contracted an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris.
After using the prescribed neti pot for a month, she developed a rash near her nose, which was misdiagnosed as rosacea. "She wasn't boiling the water or using sterile saline, she was filtering it, but maybe somehow it got contaminated".
But after performing brain surgery and taking a tissue sample, they realized she actually had a rare amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris.
"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", Dr Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, told The Seattle Times. A CT scan had revealed a 1.5-centimeter lesion and the 69-year-old had a history of cancer.
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. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a species of amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, one of the best-documented causes of such infections, is frequently present in fresh water, though infections are rare. "But in your nose, these organisms can stay alive in nasal passages and cause potentially serious infections", according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It appears that this woman became infected with the amoeba through flushing of her sinuses with the tap water. But the next day, they discovered that her brain was teeming with the amoeba.
"Despite aggressive anti-amoebic therapy, the patient's condition continued to deteriorate", noted the authors of the report. Then the numbness began on her left side. The woman died a month later, the Seattle Times reports. As the researchers noted in the case study, there's still much to learn about the mode of and reasons for these infections, such as the influence of compromised immune systems, environmental factors, and genetics. Since 1993, the CDC says, there have been at least 70 cases in the United States.
The answer lies in a common instrument known as a neti pot, a teapot-shaped product used to rinse out the sinuses and nasal cavity.
Health officials suggest using only distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to rinse sinuses.