Beware the Improperly Used Neti Pot: Brain-Eating Amoebas Could Strike

By Veronique Greenwood | December 22, 2011 1:53 pm

A neti pot in action.

As you may have heard by now, two people in Louisiana have died from infections of brain-munching microbes after making a small, but fatal, error. While filling their neti pots, devices that send water flowing through your nasal passages to clear them out during a cold, they used tap water instead of distilled or sterilized water. Just their luck, the tap water had a few Naegleria fowleri in it, and soon, as the microbes made their way through the nasal passages to the brain, those poor folks had a lot more than a cold to worry about. The mortality rate of human Naegleria fowleri infections is 98%.

Tap water is generally safe for most purposes, and drinking a few of these guys isn’t a problem, since your stomach acid digests them pronto, as Jennifer Frazer over at the Artful Amoeba notes (also, she points out—these aren’t actually amoebas, but distant cousins, and yes, these are the same little guys that sometimes kill swimmers). But your deep nasal passages are quite a bit closer to your brain and aren’t equipped with such protection. Be careful, all you neti pot users out there. Sometimes the fine print has important information.

[via The Artful Amoeba]

Image courtesy of Aikhan / Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine

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