A 69-year-old woman suffering from a sinus infection recently lost her life after contracting a rare brain-eating amoeba, and doctors believe it may be the result of using tap water with her neti pot.
According to a case published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the woman had been suffering from a persistent sinus infection. To treat it, doctors prescribed her a neti pot to rinse her sinuses twice daily. However, instead of using the recommended sterile water or saline to irrigate her sinuses, she opted to use water filtered via a Brita Water Purifier.
After using the neti pot for around a month, a red rash-the size of a quarter-formed on the right side of her nose. Her doctor believed it was rosacea and prescribed an ointment to treat it. However, it didn’t clear. She even made several visits to a dermatologist who took biopsies of it to no avail.
A year after the rash first appeared, the woman had a seizure and a CT scan was done. It showed a half-inch lesion on her brain. Doctors removed the “unusual” mass, but before they were able to analyse it her condition deteriorated and her arm and leg became numb.
When the analysis came back, a physician suggested she might have an amoebic infection. She underwent another surgery to remove the brain mass and doctors noted that she had “clear evidence of amoebic infection and dramatic haemorrhagic necrosis.”
Her health continued to deteriorate to the point of comatose and her family opted to take her off of life support. After she died, lab results confirmed that the brain infection and nose rash were the results of an extremely rare brain-eating amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris, a free-living amoeba that is found in the soil and fresh water. The fatality rate of the infection is close to 100 percent.
However, senior case report author neurosurgeon Dr Charles Cobbs told LiveScience that it wasn’t the neti pot, but the unsterilised water, that was responsible for the infection.
So if you regularly use a neti pot, don't stress too much about this horrific story. Dr Cobbs doesn’t recommend anyone to stop using their neti pot. Instead, he strongly urges the use of sterile water or saline instead of tap water.