Neti Pot, Brain Amoeba Link Confirmed By CDC, Caution Urged

The neti pot related deaths believed to have occurred last year in Louisiana are the subject from a warning from the Centers For Disease Control, and the agency says that caution should be exercised when flushing sinuses due to the danger neti pots and other forms of sinus irrigation can pose.

The CDC investigation of the brain-eating amoeba came after the deaths last summer of a 28-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman. Both succumbed quickly to the same infection, and both had rinsed their sinuses recently with tap water in a neti pot.

The young man was taken to a New Orleans hospital “in a combative state,” complaining of neck stiffness as well as intermittent vomiting and a backache. Pressure in his cerebrospinal fluid at the time of a spinal tap was so severe that the liquid shot more than two inches when pierced. Doctors say the fluid was cloudy, instead of a healthy clear.

The woman was also hospitalized with similar symptoms, and both succumbed rapidly despite intravenous antibiotics, dying while hospitalized. Tap water samples taken from both patients revealed the dangerous amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, in the water samples taken.

The CDC stopped short of warning against neti pots, but did advise individuals to be incredibly mindful of the new findings about N. fowleri and how it can permeate via sinuses. CDC epidemiologist Jonathan Yoder explained that the infectious amoeba is not very likely to seek out a human host otherwise:

“It really requires a very specific forcing up the nose for (the ameba) to cross into the brain … It is not a typical parasite who is looking to infect humans. It is very happy to live in the environment.”

To avoid N. fowleri in tap water, the CDC recommends using sterile or distilled water in neti pots or to flush sinuses.