Miami-Dade County

12-year-old boy no longer infected by “brain-eating amoeba”

Following weeks of treatment, prayers and outreach to the community, the family of Zachary Reyna got some good news on Wednesday.

Zachary, the 12-year-old boy who was infected by a “brain-eating” amoeba on Aug. 3, has apparently overcome the typically fatal disease, according to a post Wednesday afternoon on his Facebook page set up by his family.

“Thank you Jesus for giving us another day with Zac and another day of hope,” a post from his father said. “We were told this morning that the antibiotics have defeated the infection. Tests showed negative activity from the amoeba.”

Although Reyna has gotten past the initial infection, doctors at Miami Children’s Hospital continue to evaluate the damage done to the boy’s brain over the past few weeks.

“The amoebas are gone and the next steps are going to be running some tests for brain activity,” said Zachary’s uncle Daniel Reyna. “We’re definitely happy. We’re glad that step is completed. We’re just continuing our prayers.”

The family remains at his side. If Reyna is able to make a full recovery and show signs of brain activity, he will become the fourth person in North America since 1962 to survive the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The most recent case was in July when another 12-year-old, Kali Hardig from Arkansas, was infected by the same amoeba, called Naeglaria fowleri. Kali had gone swimming in the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock.

She was treated with a German drug, miltefosine, which the CDC describes as having “shown some promise” in combating the amoeba. It remains unknown if miltefosine was used in Zachary’s case.

Zachary was initially infected after knee-boarding with friends in a water-filled ditch near his home in LaBelle, a small town midway between Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers, according to his parents. State health officials said it is a medical mystery why some people who swim in amoeba-containing water contract the fatal condition while most people do not.

The Facebook page in support of Zachary is called “pray4number4” and has over 10,000 “likes.” It has garnered support from celebrities like Taylor Swift and baseball players like the Miami Marlins’ Matt Diaz and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Jon Jay. The family says that support has been appreciated, but they are especially grateful for both their community’s support and support across the world.

“We appreciate all the support from the local community in Miami and worldwide,” said Daniel Reyna. “More importantly than the celebrities it’s about the complete strangers that have offered prayers and support.”

Reyna said that the community is planning a benefit barbecue and raffle, to support Zachary and his family, on Saturday at the LaBelle Rodeo Grounds.

The parasite usually enters the body through the nose and travels up to the brain. There, the amoeba can cause a brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and destroy brain tissue, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“This is a small victory but we know the battle is not over,” said his father in the Facebook post.