SEATTLE, Wash. – When a 69-year-old woman from Seattle had an attack at the start of this year, the doctors at the Swedish Medical Center thought she might have had a brain tumor. However, during surgery, they found that it was something far more unusual, according to KCPQ.
Dr. Charles Cobbs said that when he operated it was just a dead brain tissue.
Dr. Cobbs said it was most likely infected with Balamuthia mandrillaris, an amoeba that slowly kills brain cells over time.
The Swedish Medical Center did not identify the patient who died only one month after the diagnosis.
"There were these amoebas everywhere that ate only brain cells," Cobbs tells the Seattle Times. "We had no idea what was going on, but when we got the real fabric, we could see it was the amoeba."
The Swedish Medical Center team believes the woman was using a device called neti to irrigate her breasts, which probably introduced the amoeba into her system.
"It is extremely important to use sterile saline water or sterile water," said Dr. Cobbs. "I think he was using (touching) the water that had passed through a water filter and he had done it for about a year before."
The amoeba is a single-celled organism that can cause life-threatening diseases in humans and lives in hot soil and water.
"This is extremely rare.This amoeba was not even known 20 years ago barely.There were about 200 cases worldwide," said Dr. Cobbs.
The Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal says that 90% of patients who have contracted Balamuthia are dead. Although the infection is rare, Dr. Cobbs says that people should always follow instructions and take precautions when using medical devices.
"If you use a neti pot, for example, you should be well aware that it must be absolute sterile water or sterile saline," said Dr. Cobbs.
Most cases of brain-eating amoebas were found in places like California, Arizona and Texas, but Dr. Cobbs said that over time, due to climate change, the amoeba he could learn to survive in colder areas like the state of Washington.