Florida Teen Fights Odds, Survives Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba

Florida Teen Fights Odds, Survives Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba
Florida Hospital for Children Photo/Getty Images

A Florida teenager became the fourth patient over the past 50 years in the United States to survive a rare, brain-eating amoeba.

Sebastian DeLeon, 16, contracted the amoeba Naegleria fowleri while swimming in Broward County, according to Florida Department of Health officials.

DeLeon developed a severe headache while he was vacationing with his family at an Orlando theme park before he was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with meningitis, CBS Miami reported.

Doctors gave him medications, placed him under a drug-induced coma for 72 hours, and eventually diagnosed him with the amoeba Naegleria fowleri after running some tests.

DeLeon survived with the help of the drug miltefosine, produced by the Orlando pharmaceutical company Profunda.

“In the past 50 years, only four people in the United States have been reported to have survived out of the 138 cases reported, giving it almost a 97 percent mortality rate,” Florida Hospital For Children’s chief medical officer Dr. Rajan Wadhawan said to Florida Today.

Naegleria fowleri is a tiny amoeba found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.  The amoeba can cause a rare brain infection if it enters the body through the nose, Wadhawan said.

Signs of infection include severe headache, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, and coma. Symptoms usually present themselves between one to 14 days after infection.