Rare brain parasite found in two children - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Rare brain parasite found in two children

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Doctors in two states are working feverishly to save two 12-year-olds, battling a rare and almost always fatal infection. Prayers for Zachary Reyna, a 12-year old boy who's fighting for his life in Miami Children's Hospital and also for 12-year old Kali Hardig who's battling for her life over 1,000 miles away in an Arkansas Children's Hospital.

Both children have an infection called Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, commonly known as PAM. It's so rare, according to the CDC, in the last half century, there have only been 128 confirmed cases in the United States. And it's almost 100 percent fatal. Only one person has ever survived.

So doctors took notice when in the last month, two cases suddenly appeared. Kali's physician is Dr. Matt Linam. "Your stomach just drops. I mean, it's just because, you know, it has over a 99 percent mortality."

The organism that causes this illness is commonly found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers. Zachary was knee boarding in a water-filled ditch. Kali was swimming at a water park which has since been shut down.

Kali is being given an experimental drug and it seems to be working. After more than two weeks on a ventilator she's breathing on her own and was even able to write a note to her father.

Zachary's family remains hopeful. 

For the doctors, this is uncharted territory. "You're pulling out all the stops and doing everything you can in hopes that you have a chance to save the patient," Dr. Linam said. 

The two families have communicated and are said to be supporting each other. Meanwhile, doctors for Kali and Zachary are sharing information, working against time, hoping they can kill this parasite.

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