Infected Water results in Brain Eating Amoeba death of a 12-year old Boy

By on 6:33 AM

What is Brain Eating Amoeba?

Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) or “brain eating Amoeba”, is an extremely rare but fatal infection caused by single celled organism known as an amoeba that is found in warm fresh water and hot springs. It requires entry of infected water to enter the nose and travels directly through that route to the brain tissue.

Zachary Reyna a 12-year old boy from Florida, who was playing in a water-filled ditch in early August and most likely inhaled water through his nose, was removed from life support and donated all his organs to those in need saving many lives, while sacrificing his own. While the “activity” of the amoeba that had affected his brain was showing “negative activity, his brain was extensively damaged by this tiny, microscopic, but deadly organism.

How is PAM best treated?

Treatment for brain eating Ameba is limited but an antibiotic known as Miltefosine in combination with other antimicrobial drugs, has shown some promise in treating this condition, particularly in the case of a 12-year old girl, Kali Hardig from Arkansas, who contracted it in July and is recovering. Kali was given the primary drug in combination with others, to attempt to treat this condition and is making progress, being one of very few survivors of this infection.  Just this week, the CDC has announced that together with the FDA, it will make this drug available directly from the CDC’s stockpile as it has been imported from Germany since 2009 to treat these types of infections. However, PAM is an aggressive and fast moving infection that requires treatment immediately upon diagnosis. It appears that Kali Hardig was given the amoeba drug within 12 hours of request by her physicians. The expedient dispensing of Miltefosine is key to treating this rare but most often fatal infection.

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.