"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", Dr. Charles Cobbs, neurosurgeon at Swedish told The Seattle Times. Swedish Medical Center didn't identify the patient who died just a month after being diagnosed.
"We believe that she was using a device to irrigate her sinuses that some people use called a neti pot". She'd experienced a seizure that weakened her left arm. After examining a CT scan taken of her brain, physicians thought she had a tumor. She also had a sore on her nose that would not go away. However, during surgery, they discovered it was something much more unusual, according to KCPQ. He took a sample and sent it for analysis.
"He thought it looked suspicious for amoeba infection". But the woman's condition was deteriorating.
According to the report, lab results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the woman's brain tissue tested positive for Balamuthia mandrillaris, a rare brain-eating amoeba that is typically found in soil. Tap water can contain tiny organisms that are safe to drink but could survive in nasal passages.
According to Dr. Zara Patel, a professor of otolaryngology at Stanford University, when people use contaminated water to rinse their nose and sinuses, they can be at risk for aggressive infections. Infection can only occur when infected water goes up the nose. The study was authored by Cobbs and others who worked on the woman's case.
A Seattle woman rinsed her sinuses with tap water. "So that's what we suspect is the source of the infection", said Cobbs.
The case is the second-ever reported in Seattle - the first was in 2013.
They started treating the infection, to no avail.
Her case is reported this week in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Dr Cobbs continued: 'It's extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water.
"It's not something to be scared about because it's extraordinarily rare, but still there's a lot to learn", Cobbs said.
But when Cobbs operated to remove the mass, "it was just dead brain tissue", making it hard to determine what it actually was.
Wash the device, and dry the inside with a paper towel or let it air dry between uses. However, parents should consult with their pediatrician before use on children.