As reported in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the story began when a Seattle-based woman visited the doctors with a nasty chronic sinus infection. "I think she was using (tap) water that had been through a water filter and had been doing that for about a year previously".
The 69-year-old Seattle resident died in February after undergoing brain surgery at Swedish Medical Center.
A year later, she died of a brain-eating amoeba. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba".
Even though such infections are very rare, there were three similar US cases from 2008 to 2017.
"After a month of using non-sterile water for nasal lavage without success, she developed a quarter-sized red raised rash on the right side of the bridge of her nose and raw red skin at the nasal opening, which was thought to be rosacea", the report states.
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A variety of types of amoeba can cause deadly brain infections, which can also be contracted from getting fresh water in the nose while swimming. 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.
Researchers found that the single-celled organisms likely infected the woman's brain through her nasal cavity by way of a neti pot, a teapot shaped product used to rinse out the sinuses, about a year earlier. 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. Alarmingly, the fatality rate is practically 100 per cent.
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.
In addition, images from brain scans may resemble other conditions that are more common, including tumors and bacterial infections, the authors wrote. It can kill within days, not months, according to the Seattle Times. In the meantime, the scientists recommend that doctors conduct amoeba testing in cases of nasal sores and ring-enhancing brain lesions.
As such, when the 69-year-old shot the tap water up her nasal cavity, she essentially injected the brain-eating infection known as granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE). "At this point, the family made a decision to withdraw support", the report continued. It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water.