Doctors say amoebas in tap water turned woman's brain into 'bloody mush'

An MRI of the Seattle woman’s brain in January 2018. Doctors initially thought the ringed lesion on the left was a tumor because the woman had a history of breast cancer

According to the doctors who treated the woman, the non-sterile water that she used it thought to have contained Balamuthia mandrillaris, an amoeba that over the course of weeks to months can cause a very rare and nearly always fatal infection in the brain. When doctors did a CT scan, they found what they thought was a tumor but later discovered was dead tissue in her brain during an operation.

But when Cobbs operated to remove the mass, "it was just dead brain tissue", making it hard to determine what it actually was.

A Seattle woman died after becoming infected with a brain-eating amoeba.

After she died, doctors determined the specific infection had been caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris.

Doctors believe that the 69-year-old Seattle woman contracted a fatal brain-eating amoeba after using tap water in her neti pot rather than the sterile saline solution. She used tap water that had been filtered with a Brita Water Purifier. Doctors believe an amoeba entered in through her upper nasal cavity and got into her bloodstream, eventually reaching her brain. The CDC says it's possible that the amoeba may also live in water.

Normally, an extra effort is required to bring on an infection; it can not be contracted by drinking contaminated water.

"Improper nasal irrigation has been reported as a method of infection for the comparably insidious amoeba", the doctors say in the research paper about the Seattle woman.

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Unfortunately, this woman became one of these fatalities, dying just one month after the surgery.

Her case is reported this week in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

However, using tap water with a neti pot isn't safe, according to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

But how did the amoebas get in her brain in the first place?

Shortly after contracting the amoeba, the woman developed a red sore on her nose, which was misdiagnosed as the common skin condition rosacea. The study was authored by Cobbs and others who worked on the woman's case. This amoeba was not even known 20 years ago hardly.

"He thought it looked suspicious for amoeba infection. So that's what we suspect is the source of the infection", Cobbs said, according to KIRO. That said, the woman's case was rare; there were only three similar cases in the US from 2008 to 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "It's always going to be an uphill battle because people learn by seeing things over and over again, but I don't think that there are going to be an increase in cases in the future".

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