Seattle Woman Dies After Brain-Eating Amoeba Enters Her Body

A woman who was told by her doctor to rinse her sinuses twice daily to clear up a chronic sinus infection died from a brain-eating amoeba. Although the woman did use a store-bought filter, it likely wasn't one approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This single-celled organism is not to be confused with Naegleria fowleri, another brain-eating amoeba that also lives in freshwater. 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.

She was advised to try and flush out her sinuses and nasal cavity using water. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that only distilled or sterile water be used for sinus irrigation.

"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", neurosurgeon Charles Cobbs told the Seattle Times.

According to the CDC, most cases of Balamuthia mandrillaris aren't diagnosed until immediately before death or after death, so doctors don't have a lot of experience treating the amoeba and know little about how a person becomes infected.

Unlike N. fowleri, B. mandrillaris is much more hard to detect, according to the report. It was declared a distinct species in 1993, according to the report.

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The case report notes that GAE is rare and the CDC described it as a "very rare disease that is usually fatal".

A person can not get infected from swallowing water contaminated with it, and it can not pass from person to person. In cases involving N. fowleri, for example, people have contracted the amoeba by jumping into a lake and having water shoot up their noses. That aligns with what the victim experienced, as her first likely symptom was a red sore on her nose that doctors kept misdiagnosing as the common skin condition rosacea.

The case is the second-ever reported in Seattle - the first was in 2013. 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.

With no diagnosis, her condition continued to decline and she developed more lesions on her brain.

According to a report published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, doctors conducted a CT scan on the woman and noticed a legion in her brain. "At this point, the family made a decision to withdraw support". It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water. There have been over 200 diagnoses of the disease worldwide, 70 of which were in the U.S., per the CDC.

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