A woman in Seattle was using a neti pot but she got more than what she bargained for. She managed to get a rare infection from an amoeba that killed her. The 69-year-old woman suffered from the infection for almost a year before the doctors realized what it was.
In most cases, a neti pot is filled with sanitized water or a pre-sterilized saline solution. The device is designed to flush out the sinuses but it is thought that she used tapwater that was filtered with a Brita device to flush out her nasal cavities. Little did she know that an organism existed in the water that would end up causing her demise.
The International Journal of Infectious Diseases published her case last year. Although the patient was not identified by name, it said that she had a seizure and then went to the emergency room. The physicians at the Swedish Medical Center thought that she had a tumor showing up on the scan.
After they performed surgery, they realized the truth about what was in her nasal cavity. One surgeon had the following to say:
“When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush. There were these amoeba all over the place just eating brain cells. We didn’t have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba.”
Approximately one month after the surgery the patient died. After looking into it, it was discovered that there were 109 cases of this particular amoebic infection since 1974 in the United States. The majority of them have proven to be fatal. The water was not able to be tested but it is known that certain freshwater sources may be used in Washington state, including wells.
The amoeba is not able to survive in water that has been treated by the city and the amoeba that this woman contracted is very rare. Even so, doctors want anyone using a neti pot to be aware of the potential problem. The best way to avoid such an issue is to follow the directions on the packaging of the product and ensure a sterile solution is being used.
Other amoeba infections have also occurred in the United States but it is not the same organism that caused this woman to die. In either case, scientists are concerned that infections could increase in the United States due to warmer weather conditions. It may increase to the point where this type of infection is typically seen in South and Central America.
The infection may look like a common issue because of its symptoms and since it does not progress quickly, doctors may not be able to detect it easily. That was what this woman experienced. According to her medical records, she reported a sore on her nose after using the neti pot and they thought that it was rosacea.
In reality, it may have been a sign that there was an infection. Many people use neti pots if they have allergies or sinus problems. The FDA provides warnings that the devices may be safe but they should be used according to directions to avoid issues.
The most important things to remember are to use a sterile saline solution or sterile water when irrigating the nose.