A Seattle woman died after becoming infected with a brain-eating amoeba.
The woman told her doctor she had used tap water in a neti pot, instead of saline or sterile water. Doctors believe an amoeba entered in through her upper nasal cavity got into her blood stream, eventually reaching her brain.
A neurosurgeon from Swedish Medical Center said this is a rare situation but is warning patients to be sure to follow the directions when using a neti pot for nasal congestion. The directions call for saline or sterilized water. They believe the woman used tap water she’d put in a pitcher with a filter in her refrigerator.
Dr. Charles Cobbs is the neurosurgeon who operated on the patient in January 2018. The 69-year-old woman arrived in the hospital’s emergency room after suffering seizures. At first doctors thought the woman had a tumor; she had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer. She also had a sore on her nose that would not go away. While it had been biopsied, no one suspected an amoeba.
When Dr. Cobbs first operated on her, he discovered a tumor the size of a dime. He removed it and sent it to a lab at John’s Hopkins. The pathologist discovered it was amoeba. The woman’s condition quickly deteriorated. About two weeks later, Dr. Cobbs did another surgery and found a mass the size of a baseball. He removed the mass and put the woman on a large dose of medicine but she could not be saved.
Now they think the sore on her nose was connected. Swedish doctors wrote a case study for the International Journal of Infectious Diseases to educate other doctors on their rare findings.
KIRO 7’s Alison Grande is talking to Dr. Cobbs at Swedish this afternoon about the rare situation and how it might have happened. She’s working on the story for KIRO 7 News at 6 p.m.
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