When the doctors looked at these samples of the tissue under the microscope, they could see the amoebas.
"After a month of using non-sterile water for nasal lavage without success, she developed a quarter-sized red raised rash on the right side of the bridge of her nose and raw red skin at the nasal opening, which was thought to be rosacea", the report states.
'I think she was using (tap) water that had been through a water filter and had been doing that for about a year previously'.
Finally, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center, where the woman was being treated, opened her skull to examine her brain and found that it was infected with amoebae.
Dr. Cobbs says the woman carried an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris that kills the brain cells slowly over time.
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Cobbs: "This is an amoeba that is just one of the things in the environment, so we're exposed to it all the time probably, and it's not really known to be something that injures humans but in a certain, extremely rare situation it can cause an infection like this".
A study published by the International Journal of Infectious Diseases determined that the woman contracted the brain infection a year earlier by using a neti pot filled with nonsterile water to treat a sinus infection. It was declared a distinct species in 1993, according to the report. They hope her case will let other doctors know to consider an amoeba infection if a patient gets a sore or rash on the nose after rinsing their sinuses.
Brain-eating amoeba infections usually occur when water is forced up the nose, according to the CDC, particularly "when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers". But the next day, they discovered that her brain was teeming with the amoeba.
"Despite aggressive anti-amoebic therapy, the patient's condition continued to deteriorate", the report states. "Within one week she was more somnolent [sleepy] and then became comatose". "Repeat CT imaging demonstrated further hemorrhage into the original resection cavity". As the researchers noted in the case study, there's still much to learn about the mode of and reasons for these infections, such as the influence of compromised immune systems, environmental factors, and genetics. Since then, more than 200 cases have been diagnosed worldwide, with at least 70 cases in the USA, the CDC says.
Importantly, the scientists said we should not give up on neti pots, as the devices present a good way of getting nasal relief.