Doctors performed two surgeries, but were not able to save her.
According to a study recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, doctors believe the woman likely became infected when she used tap water in her neti pot, a teapot-like vessel used to flush out nasal passages.
"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball", Charles Cobbs, a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Medical Center, told The Seattle Times. She entered surgery the next day. An initial CT scan revealed what doctors believed was a tumor.
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The Times reported that the woman shot the contaminated water far up her nasal cavity toward olfactory nerves in the upper part of her nasal cavity, causing the brain-eating infection.
Cobbs said it's theoretically possible for other people to be infected with the same deadly amoeba, but that it's a very, very rare occurrence.
Balamuthia mandrillaris: As Gizmodo reported, there have only ever been 200 reported cases of B. mandrillaris globally.
She used the neti pot for about a month to treat her sinus infection, and developed red, rash-like sores around her nose. It's a simple contraption that can be purchased at major retailers across the US.
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It is also acceptable to use a filter specifically created to trap potentially infectious organisms.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rushed the anti-amoeba drug miltefosine to Seattle to try to save the woman's life, but she fell into a coma and died.
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. "I think she was using water that had been through a water filter and had been doing that for about a year previously", Dr. Cobb said. In fact, her case of GAE is the first to be linked to the washing of the nasal cavity, according to Keenan Piper, a member of the Swedish team that produced the study. They hope her case will let other doctors know to consider an amoeba infection if a patient gets a sore or rash on the nose after rinsing their sinuses. It moves slowly and can take weeks or months to cause death. Not suspecting anything particularly unusual, her doctors diagnosed it as a rosacea, a common skin condition, with treatments lasting for about a year.
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