Lifestyle & Belief

Florida boy dies from 'brain-eating' parasite


Most cases of infection are caused by swimming in contaminated water, which can allow the brain-eating amoeba to enter the nostrils. Here, children play in a swimming pool in Karachi in June 2006.



A twelve-year-old Florida boy died Monday after a weeks-long battle with a brain-eating amoeba, which he likely contracted while playing in fresh water. 

A resident of LaBelle, Zachary Reyna seemed to have contracted the deadly primary amoebic meningoencephalitis infection as he knee-boarded near his home on Aug. 3, according to Fort Myers' News-Press. 

Read more from GlobalPost: Arkansas girl battles "brain eating" amoeba 

He was taken to the hospital after experiencing a week of flu-like symptoms, a common manifestation of the rare water-borne infection.

Although doctors used an experimental drug on Reyna that saved a 12-year-old Arkansas girl, the treatment was unsuccessful, CNN reported. 

Doctors at Miami Children's Hospital pronounced Reyna brain-dead on Saturday afternoon, reported NBC2 News. The family is keeping the boy alive on a ventilator so his organs may be donated, although it remains unclear when this will take place. 

"We thank everyone for being so caring and I know it's going to be tough on us at first, but we have an awesome support team back home and we are grateful for that," wrote Reyna's father on a Facebook page set up to support the boy. "The battle is over for Zac but he won the war."

Reyna's deadly infection was caused by the naegleria fowleri amoeba, often referred to as a "brain eater" due to the devastating effect it has on brain tissue.

According to the CDC, the fresh-water dwelling amoeba usually enters the human body via the nose, and can then travel to the brain and ignite a case of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) — which is almost always fatal.

It is most commonly found in warm bodies of water in the Southern US, during the summer months, and can also be caused by nasal irrigation with contanimated water — although it's impossible to contract this amoeba by drinking tainted water. 

 Horrifying as naegleria fowleri is, it is thankfully relatively rare: only 31 cases were reported to the CDC between 2003 and 2012. WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral