Teen's condition remains critical after brain-eating amoeba diagnosis

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Teen's condition remains grim after brain-eating amoeba diagnosis
As Michael Riley Jr. continues to battle the deadly brain-eating parasite, a doctor familiar with the amoeba explains why the death rate among those who get it is so high.

HOUSTON -- Fourteen-year-old Michael Riley is still hanging on to life at Texas Children's Hospital after contracting a brain-eating amoeba.

Earlier this month, a 4-year-old boy from Houston died from the same condition, PAM-Primary Amoeba Meningoencephalitis.

Dr. Luis Ostrosky specializes in infectious diseases at Memorial Hermann. He did not treat either child, but he has seen three patients in the past who suffered from the same condition.

"This is the really bad news is that there's no proven treatment for this infection," Ostrosky said, "We, in desperation, try to combine different antibiotics and anti-fungals, anti-parasitics and there's a handful of cases in the literature that have survived this infection."

According to the CDC, 97 percent of patients who contract PAM do not survive. The amoeba is common in Texas freshwater lakes and rivers, but the infection caused by the amoeba is very rare. The state health department does not place warning signs around lakes to warn swimmers.

"We think that not everybody who gets exposed to them gets actually sick," Dr. Ostrosky said. "We think that there may be very subtle differences in the immune system."

There's still a lot to be learned about the brain-eating amoeba, but doctors said children are the most common victims. They are the ones playing, splashing and jumping in the lakes; those activities increase the likelihood of water going up their noses.

The Riley family is holding out hope for Michael. They sent Eyewitness News the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"Our family is continuing to claim a Miracle 4 Michael from our Lord Jesus Christ. We are surrounded by our family, friends and spiritual leaders of the Houston community. Michael is in critically stable condition and our amazing medical team is monitoring swelling and activity of the brain. The outpouring of love and support from all over the world has confirmed that our family's current challenge will bring light and awareness to PAM-Primary Amoeba Meningoencephalitis. It has also confirmed our faith in the healing that is to come for Michael. Thank you for your continued support and prayers."

Doctor Ostrosky advises concerned parents to stop their kids from splashing and jumping into freshwater lakes during the warm months.

Extended family and friends set up a Facebook page, as well as a GoFundMe page.

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