Sebastian DeLeon, a Florida teen, has defied medical odds and survived a brain-eating amoeba that kills 97 percent of people that catch it, NY Daily News is reporting.
The 16-year-old boy had arrived an Orlando hospital a fortnight ago complaining about a headache. It was meant to be a routine check-up, but just in a few hours, Dr. Humberto Liriano was telling his parents to say their final goodbyes, because only three out of 138 people had survived the fatal infection in the last 50 years.
“I had to tell them just to say their goodbyes, ‘tell him everything you want to tell your child because I don’t know from the time I put him to sleep to the time I take the tube out, if he will wake up.'”
DeLeon, a camp counselor had caught the deadly Naegleria fowleri infection while swimming at a private beach in Florida. He had contracted the infection through his nose.
He began developing meningitis-like symptoms, which prompted his parents to take him to a hospital. A test for meningitis came back negative, which aroused the suspicion of pathologist, Sheila Black. Black took a closer look at the microscopic slide, and that was when her worst fears were confirmed.
“I went back and studied it for awhile. The amoebas aren’t very active so you have to look and watch. That’s when I saw the pseudopods moving on the amoeba.”
The deadly diagnosis confirmed that Sebastian DeLeon’s life was hanging in a balance. The hospital needed to move fast. A call was placed to Profunda Inc, a drug company located in Orlando that manufactured an anti-parasitic drug known as miltefosine; within 15 minutes the drug was delivered to the hospital.
Liriano and his medical team lowered Sebastian’s temperature and put him into a coma. They administered the anti-parasitic drug with a cocktail of other antimicrobials and monitored the results.
The speedy result was nothing short of a miracle. In 72 hours after the treatment began, the brain-eating amoeba was gone. Liriano who could not hold back tears at a press conference, said the patient was doing “tremendously well” and would be headed home in a few days.
“It’s been miraculous to see Sebastian recover right before my eyes from such a fatal and unforgiving infection. This was a once-in-a-lifetime case for any doctor, and I’ll take these lessons with me throughout the rest of my medical career.”
Brunilda Gonzales, Sebastian’s mother had nothing but high praise for the staff of the Florida Hospital for children who worked tirelessly to save her son.
“I’m so grateful that the staff at Florida Hospital for Children were able to catch this rare infection so quickly, and heal my son. Thank you to everyone on the staff. And thank you God, who guided them. I truly believe this was a miracle.”
In June, Lauren Seitz, an 18-year-old teen from Ohio, died from the same brain-eating amoeba after contracting it during a rafting trip in North Carolina. She was traveling with her church youth choir.
Naegleria fowleri is a rare infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there have only been 35 reported cases of the infection in the last 10 years.
This microorganism is commonly found in rivers, lakes, hot springs, soils, and warm fresh water. If it enters through the mouth, it is harmless, but if it goes in through the nose, it gets to travel to the brain and infects it.
Out of the four people who have been infected this year, only Sebastian DeLeon has survived. Only three other people have survived this dreaded amoeba that has a 97 percent fatality rate. Two of them used miltefosine.
In 2013, Kali Hardig contracted the amoeba while taking a dip in a water park. The Arkansas girl, who was 12-years-old at the time, spent seven weeks in the hospital before she was able to return home.
That same summer an 8-year-old Texas boy also survived, but suffered permanent brain damage because of delay in treatment after he developed symptoms. The first known survivor in 1978 was not treated with miltefosine.
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