The 69-year-old Seattle resident died in February after undergoing brain surgery at Swedish Medical Center.
The woman's brain infection went undiagnosed for so long because the type of amoeba she had was so uncommon and also moves very slowly, the Times stated.
Researchers found that the single-celled organisms likely infected the woman's brain through her nasal cavity by way of a neti pot, a teapot shaped product used to rinse out the sinuses, about a year earlier. It was sent to a lab at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where a scientists said he suspected an amoeba infection.
But after performing brain surgery and taking a tissue sample, they realized she actually had a rare amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris. But the woman's condition was deteriorating.
The neurosurgeon, Dr. Charles Cobbs, operated on the 69-year-old woman last January.
"According to the doctors who treated the woman, the non-sterile water that she used it thought to have contained Balamuthia mandrillaris, ï"¿an amoeba that over the course of weeks to months can cause a very rare and nearly always fatal infection in the brain. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba", Cobbs added.
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"It's so exceedingly rare that I'd never heard of it", Cobbs said.
"After a month of using non-sterile water for nasal lavage without success, she developed a quarter-sized red raised rash on the right side of the bridge of her nose and raw red skin at the nasal opening, which was thought to be rosacea", the report states.
"There have been 34 reported infections in the U.S.in the 10 years from 2008 to 2017, despite millions of recreational water exposures each year", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
People can't be infected by simply swallowing water contaminated with amoebas. Researchers believe that she contracted the amoeba while using the neti pot because she used filtered tap water rather than saline or sterile water, the latter of which is recommended.
In 2011, Louisiana health officials warned residents not to use nonsterilized tap water in neti pots after the deaths of two people who were exposed to Naegleria fowleri while flushing their nasal passages. "There's been about 200 cases world-wide", Dr. Cobb said. The CDC rushed a brand-new drug to doctors in an effort to save the woman, but she died from the infection.
Unlike N. fowleri, B. mandrillaris is much more hard to detect, according to the report.