For the fourth time since 1962 in the United States, an individual survived the parasitic disease, primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) caused by Naegleria fowleri.

brain eating amoeba
Naegleria fowleri

During a press conference today at Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando, we learned that 16-year-old Sebastian DeLeon survived the lethal amoeba responsible for a case fatality rate of 97 percent.

A rapid medical response, which included the investigational drug, miltefosine, is credited to the survival of the teen camp counselor.

His family first realized something was wrong when their son complained of a serious headache. When the headache grew worse, his parents found Florida Hospital through an online search. He was admitted to Florida Hospital for Children’s Emergency Department on Aug. 7 and received specialized medication within hours.

“It’s been miraculous to see Sebastian recover right before my eyes from such a fatal and unforgiving infection,” said Dr. Humberto Liriano, a pediatric intensivist. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime case for any doctor, and I’ll take these lessons with me throughout the rest of my medical career.”

“For two years, Florida Hospital has placed special emphasis on knowing the signs and symptoms of this deadly infection,” said Dr. Rajan Wadhawan, chief medical officer of Florida Hospital for Children. “We believe this concerted effort to educate our medical teams led to the quick thinking and action that saved Sebastian’s life.”

“I’m so grateful that the staff at Florida Hospital for Children were able to catch this rare infection so quickly, and even heal my son. We were fortunate to be so close,” said Brunilda Gonzalez, Sebastian’s mother. “Thank you to everyone on the staff. And thank you to God, who guided them. I truly believe this was a miracle.”

Sebastian joins a short list of survivors of the lethal amoeba in the US, which include a case from 1978 and two from 2013.

There has been four cases in the US this summer with the other three, from Ohio, Texas and South Carolina, tragically perishing from the infection.