Orlando company aims to cure Brain Eating Amoeba

An Orlando based company is working to spread a drug that can help people survive brain eating amoeba infection.

The most recent case of brain eating amoeba, scientifically named Naegleria fowleri, happened in Texas. 10-year-old Lily Avant died Monday.  

The girl had a fever and headache after swimming in a river near Waco, Texas, on Sept. 8th. At first, her symptoms were dismissed. However, a few days later, Lily collapsed and was flown to Cook Children's Hospital.

Todd MacLaughlen, CEO of Orlando pharmaceutical company Profounda, was alerted to the case when the girl was in the hospital. His company creates a drug that kills brain eating amoeba. The drug, called Impavido, is credited with helping saved the life of a teen in Orlando in 2016.

Sebastian Deleon contracted brain eating amoeba while on vacation in Orlando with his family. The teen took Impavido quickly after feeling symptoms. According to MacLaughlen, the last three survivors of brain eating amoeba all took Impavido, along with receiving other extensive medical care.

Cook Children's Hospital did have the drug on hand, but Avant was seen days after she originally felt symptoms. "In this case, the patient was already in an advanced stage when they administered the drug," said MacLaughlen.

Now, MacLaughlen is on a mission to spread awareness about the importance of quick diagnoses. "If you hear the word water exposure, and you have symptoms of meningitis, stiff neck, nausea, high temperature, sometimes sensitivity to light, any of those symptoms should raise a flag that this could also be PAM," he said.

MacLaughlen hopes to get Impavido in more hospitals so it is readily available when children present symptoms. "It's heart breaking," said MacLaughlen. "We're doing the best we can do to make sure the drug is available to anyone that wants it."

The drug is stocked at more than 20 hospitals in the United States.