Unfortunately, this woman became one of these fatalities, dying just one month after the surgery. After experiencing an intense seizure and an apparent loss of brain cognition, doctors started to investigate the possibility of the problem being in her brain.
Lab results later revealed that the infection in her brain and nose rash were caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris, which is often associated with a disease called granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE), according to the Center for Disease Control. 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.
But when Cobbs operated to remove the mass, "it was just dead brain tissue", making it hard to determine what it actually was.
The neurosurgeon, Dr. Charles Cobbs, operated on the 69-year-old woman last January. But the woman's condition was deteriorating.
"According to the doctors who treated the woman, the non-sterile water that she used it thought to have contained Balamuthia mandrillaris, ï"¿an amoeba that over the course of weeks to months can cause a very rare and nearly always fatal infection in the brain.
"We didn't have any clue what was going on", he added.
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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 was pretty much shocked because I'd never seen that before", Cobbs told KIRO-TV. "It was just dead brain tissue", he tells Live Science. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms - such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas - that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them.
Even though such infections are very rare, there were three similar USA cases from 2008 to 2017.
A year ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also issued a warning that improper use of Neti pots and other nasal irrigation systems could lead to risky infections, including one with a brain-eating amoeba.
But while this type of brain infection is rare, doctors are urging people to use sterile water any time they use a neti pot. "So that's what we suspect is the source of the infection", said Cobbs.
"If you do use a neti pot, for instance, you should be very aware that it has to be absolute sterile water or sterile saline", said Dr. Cobbs.
Balamuthia mandrillaris: As Gizmodo reported, there have only ever been 200 reported cases of B. mandrillaris globally.