Arkansas girl Kali Hardig survives brain-eating amoeba

10:02 AM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
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In this photo provided by the Hardig family Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, Ark., Kali Hardig, 12, poses in an undated family photo. The child suffers from a rare brain infection. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston) / AP



( - Use of an experimental breast cancer drug and the dramatic drop in body temperature that helped make an Arkansas girl only the third survivor of a rare form of meningitis have been communicated to those treating a LaBelle boy with the same affliction.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed Tuesday that there has been communication between the doctors treating the two youths.

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Kali Hardig, 12, has been a patient at Arkansas Children's Hospital since shortly after a mid-July swimming trip to a water park and was diagnosed with a case of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.

Zachary Reyna, 12, was knee-boarding in a water-filled ditch near his family's LaBelle home Aug. 3 when he contracted the same infection. He is in the intensive care unit at Miami Children's Hospital, where his family is keeping vigil at his bedside and hoping he becomes the fourth survivor.

The infection destroys brain tissue and is almost always lethal - the fatality rate is over 99 percent. The CDC said one of 128 individuals with the infection in the U.S. in the past 50 years has survived; and one in Mexico survived.

Dr. Jerril Greene, pediatric critical care specialist and co-medical director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Arkansas Children's Hospital, was Kali's physician.

Greene said there were several measures implemented and a couple critical actions taken for Kali that likely led to her survival.

"The first thing we did was to cool her down so she no longer had a fever," Greene said. Kali was brought in with a high fever and the threat of brain swelling a concern.

Greene said the pressure in her brain was constantly monitored, and her temperature was as low as 91.4 degrees.

"It was mainly therapeutic," he said. "We do that for other diseases where pressure is a concern such as encephalitis and in traumatic brain injuries." However, Greene said the organism involved, Naegleria fowleri, thrives in a warm environment and was likely inhibited by the drop in body temperature.

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