'Divine Intervention:' Boy 4th to Survive Brain-Eating Amoeba

Quick-thinking doctors and a happy coincidence saved Sebastian DeLeon, 16
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2016 6:06 AM CDT
'Divine Intervention:' Boy 4th to Survive Brain-Eating Amoeba
Sebastian DeLeon, 16, is only the fourth person in the US to survive infection by a brain-eating amoeba.   (DeLeon Family/Florida Hospital Orlando via AP)

A 16-year-old South Florida boy has made a miraculous recovery after becoming infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba. Sebastian DeLeon is only the fourth person in the US to survive an infection by the Naegleria fowleri parasite, which he contracted while swimming, Florida Today reports. On Aug. 5, the teen was at an Orlando theme park with his family when he was overcome with headache so excruciating that he "couldn't tolerate people touching him,” said Dr. Humberto Lirian, a critical care pediatrician. Sebastian’s parents took him to Florida Hospital for Children, where Dr. Dennis Hernandez decided not to stop at a migraine diagnosis and took a sample of his spinal fluid—a move that saved the boy’s life. Call it "divine intervention and a gut instinct," Hernandez said, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Other symptoms can include fever, nausea, and seizures.

A lab test revealed the deadly amoeba, which can be tough to spot, and doctors immediately reached out to the maker of a drug recently approved to treat the parasite—the company, Profounda, happens to be based in Orlando. After Profounda got the call, notes the Sentinel, "the drug to treat Sebastian was delivered in 12 minutes." Miltefosine isn't commonly stocked by hospitals, which cost the life of an 11-year-old Florida boy in 2014, but that may change after Sebastian’s close call. Quick treatment was credited with saving a 12-year-old in Arkansas in 2014. Only three people out of 138 have survived infection, according to the CDC. For the DeLeon family at least, there is a happy ending. “We are so thankful that God has given us the miracle,” said the teen’s mother, Brunilda Gonzalez. (In June, an 18-year-old in Ohio died after becoming infected on a white-water rafting trip.)

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