SEATTLE, Wash. – When a 69-year-old woman from Seattle had a seizure earlier this year, doctors at the Swedish Medical Center believed she had a brain tumor. During the operation, however, they discovered that this was much more unusual according to KCPQ.
Dr. Charles Cobbs said when he operated on it was just dead brain tissue.
Dr. Cobbs said she was most likely infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, an amoeba that slowly kills brain cells over time.
The Swedish Medical Center was unable to identify the patient who died just one month after the diagnosis.
"There were these amoebas eating only brain cells everywhere," says Cobbs of the Seattle Times. "We had no idea what was going on, but when we had the actual tissue we could tell it was the amoeba."
The Swedish Medical Center team believes that the woman uses a device called Neti Pot to irrigate her sinuses, which is likely to introduce the amoeba into her system.
"It is extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water," Dr. Cobbs. "I think she used (tap water) that had passed through a water filter and did so about a year ago."
The amoeba is a single-celled organism that can cause fatal diseases in humans and in which humans can live warm soil and water.
"This is extremely rare. This amoeba was barely known 20 years ago. There were about 200 cases worldwide, "said Dr. Cobbs.
The Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases says that 90% of patients with Balamuthia have died, although infection is rare Use of medical equipment.
"For example, if you use a neti pot, you should be aware that it must be absolutely sterile water or sterile saline," said Dr. Cobbs.
Most cases Brain amoebas were found in places such as California, Arizona and Texas, but Dr. Cobbs said that over time, amoeba could learn to survive in colder areas like the state of Washington due to climate change.