2011-12-17 17:44:57 UTC
Brain-Eating Amoeba Fatalities Linked to Common Cold Remedy
By Natalie Wolchover | LiveScience.com=A0-=A022 hrs ago
Louisiana's state health department has issued a warning about the
dangers of improperly using nasal-irrigation devices called neti pots,
responding to two recent deaths in the state that are thought to have
resulted from "brain-eating amoebas" entering people's brains through
their sinuses while they were using the devices.
Both victims are believed to have filled their neti pots with tap water
instead of manufacturer-recommended distilled or sterilized water. When
they used these pots to force the water up their noses and flush out
their sinus cavities "a treatment for colds and hay fever" a deadly
amoeba living in the tap water, called Naegleria fowleri, worked its way
from their sinuses into their brains. The parasitic organism infected
the victims' brains with a neurological disease called primary amoebic
meningoencephalitis (PAME), which rapidly destroys neural tissue and
typically kills sufferers in a matter of days.
Jonathan Yoder, an epidemiologist with the United States Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the Louisiana cases are still
being investigated to ascertain that the deaths did indeed result from
exposure to treated tap water in neti pots, rather than exposure to
untreated water in a pond or lake. If so, they are the first known
incidences of the disease in the U.S. resulting from N. fowleri
organisms surviving the water treatment process.
"Nearly all the cases have resulted from exposure to warm recreational
water, such as ponds, rivers and lakes, and the kind of exposure where
the water would be forced up the nose " for example, diving and water
sports," Yoder told Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to
LiveScience. The amoeba thrives in natural waterholes, especially those
in the South, and several Americans die every year from swimming in
these waterholes, or using untreated water from them. However, "in the
last 15 years, I'm not aware of other cases [in the U.S.] associated
with treated drinking water," he said.
Municipal water undergoes a rigorous purification process to make it
potable, including being treated with chlorine to kill microorganisms,
he explained. "We consider chlorination to be effective in killing [N.
fowleri]. I can't comment on any water system in Louisiana, but in
general =E2=80=A6 you may start out with 1 million amoebas and your goal
is to reduce it with chlorine, and you might get 99.9 percent out. But
you're probably never going to eliminate 100 percent. That goes for
amoebas, parasites, bacteria, viruses. So while we say our drinking
water is safe, it's not sterile." [Can Your Tap Water Kill You?]
N. fowleri only seems capable of reaching the brain if it's given a big
boost by being squirted deep into a person's nasal passages. That's why
water that is considered safe to drink or bathe in isn't necessarily
safe to use in a neti pot, Yoder said.
But if you only use distilled or previously boiled water in your neti
pot, and you avoid snorting water when diving into waterholes, can you
be sure you won't get PAME simply by splashing your face with the water
out of your faucet " especially if you live in Louisiana?
Yoder said the CDC maintains that the risk of getting PAME from normal
exposure to tap water is very low, but they are helping Louisiana's
health department investigate the water treatment process in the state.
"In general, what we're committed to is even though there are very few
cases, CDC is very committed to learning more about the organism so we
can prevent further infection by developing science-based prevention
methods. But it is a very tragic infection and we're very sad for the
This story was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to
LiveScience. Follow us on Twitter @llmysteries, then join us on
Facebook. Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover.
=A0?=A0 Washington, United States =A0?=A0 2 hours ago
Another fun thing to worry about this Christmas season...wonder how many
politicians have used neti pots?
michael =A0?=A0 Orlando, United States =A0?=A0 2 hours ago
Whew!!! Glad they cleared all that up!!... I thought for a minute it was
all this drinking I was doing!!...(hiccup, hiccup)....lol
GeorgeS =A0?=A0 Manchester, United States =A0?=A0 19 hours ago
Guess I will have to use distilled water in my neti pot or boil the
Sol DuRorr =A0?=A0 Seattle, United States =A0?=A0 21 hours ago
Look, I know sniffing cocaine is illegal. But really, there are always
alternatives to letting something eat your brain. That just sounds so
discusting. And, no I can't spell. I havn't been able to since my last
Ccmr News =A0?=A0 Salisbury, United States =A0?=A0 22 hours ago
My wife been thinking something been eating on my brain for a long time
Eric1 3 minutes ago
ENOUGH with the stupid POLITICS already!
Jason K =A0?=A0 Phoenix, United States =A0?=A0 4 minutes ago
If you can die within a matter of days from snorting tap water, suddenly
crystal meth and cocaine don't look so bad for you!!!
Sandra H =A0?=A0 Phoenix, United States =A0?=A0 4 minutes ago
Don't blame the medicine. And, what is this amoeba doing in our drinking
water? Basically this article should say "Don't drink the Water."
seanj 7 minutes ago
Holy #$%$ That is insane.
the final say =A0?=A0 St. Louis, United States =A0?=A0 6 minutes ago
Uh. . . The title is misleading. It said that using this is can be
fatal. It is not fatal if used correctly with pure water. Oh but it is
so nice to link natural remedies with deaths so you can line the pockets
of the pharmesutical companies, eh yahoo?!
colby010 =A0?=A0 Bloomfield, United States =A0?=A0 13 minutes ago
how is the neti pot responsible for the amoeba's. If you are supposed to
use distilled water, and not use tap water, then the issue would be with
the tap water . contamination ie. article july12,2011 dow company found
responsible for water contamination in louisiana. secondly, for all of
you that didn't feel that chemistry was a much needed course. bacteria
are killed when heat is added and if there are any other chemicals added
to the water there is a change with those chemicals as well