Florida Boy Zachary Reyna Loses Battle Against Brain Eating Amoeba

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Although at least one report had stated that 12-year-old South Florida boy Zachary Reyna’s doctors had gotten rid of the brain eating amoeba that had infected him, he lost his battle against the disease and died Saturday.

According to his family on a post on Facebook:

I hope that Zac continues to touch people and his time here is remembered forever. The battle is over for Zac but he won the war.”

The youth was knee-boarding in a ditch close to his LaBelle home when he contracted the rare Naegleria fowleri brain eating amoeba. Zachary was hospitalized and treated in South Florida at Miami Children’s Hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that there have been about 120 cases in the United States since the amoeba was identified in the early 1960s. It causes an infection known as primary amoebic encephalitis, or PAM, and a swelling of the brain which needs to be constantly monitored.

The amoeba Naegleria fowleri can be found in bodies of fresh water like lakes, rivers, and hot springs. They also sometimes occur in swimming pools that are poorly maintained, minimally chlorinated or unchlorinated. The amoeba invades the bodies of the people it infects by traveling up the nose to the brain and spinal column.

The amoebic infection literally eats away at brain tissue and is almost always lethal. More than 99 percent of the people infected with it die of it.

According to an announcement by Zachary’s family on their Facebook page, their son’s still-strong organs will be donated to others who need them so that he will, in his passing, save the lives of others.

The announcement read, in part:

Even though Zac has passed, he will still be saving many lives.”

Just this past Wednesday, Reyna’s family posted on their Facebook page, Pray4Number4, that the antibiotics have worked on the infection and that “tests showed negative activity from the amoeba.”

The cocktail of drugs used to treat Zachary recently saved the life of a 12-year-old Arkansas girl, Kali Hardig, who was infected with the same amoeba. She is only the third person to survive this infection since 1962, of the more than 100 cases reported.

Kali still has a long way to go, and is rehabilitating from the effects of the brain eating one-celled organism, but she is making improvements every day.

The Hardigs and Kali’s doctors at the renowned Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock had been in contact with Zachary’s family and his doctors, and it had seemed as if the 12-year-old would be the fourth person to survive the terrible infection that the brain eating amoebas cause. Unfortunately, Zachary Reyna lost his fight against the deadly organism this Saturday and he passed away.


Written by: Douglas Cobb

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