Carolinas Medical Center now has its own supply of the drug that has been used to treat the rare waterborne infection that killed an Ohio teen who visited the U.S. National Whitewater Center in June.
Spokesman Kevin McCarthy said the Charlotte hospital has received a bottle of 28 pills of the drug, miltefosine, from the Florida manufacturer, Profounda. The hospital does not have to pay for the drug unless it’s used. The pills are good for 24 months, and if they aren’t used during that time, the company will replace them, McCarthy said.
The drug, known by the brand name Impavido, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 to treat a tropical parasitic disease. But the year before, it was tried experimentally on a 12-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. She beat huge odds and made a full recovery.
Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis is the same rare brain infection that killed 18-year-old Lauren Seitz on June 19, 11 days after she overturned while rafting at the Whitewater Center. The infection is caused by a single-celled animal, the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which can infect a person when water goes up the nose. People cannot be infected by drinking contaminated water.
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The amoeba can be found in all bodies of warm freshwater, but it is not found in salt water. The infection is rare; only 38 cases have been confirmed in the country in the last 10 years.
Until recently, the drug miltefesone was available only by special request through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and had to be shipped to hospitals in emergencies on a case-by-case basis.
But in early July, a Texas hospital became the first to keep the drug stocked, eliminating the wait for shipment and increasing the odds of survival for victims of the rare brain infection.