Loyola Professor dubs Chagas parasite is spreading through kissing bugs and dubs “The New HIV/Aids of the Americas”. 315 Babies are born with Chagas each year. Hospitals in Los Angeles, California have found the prevalence of the parasite in heart failure patients rose from 4% to 17% – an outrageous statistic.
Researchers at Baylor University presented the results of a study of the emergence of Chagas disease in Texas which demonstrate not only a surprisingly high incidence of the parasite in the state of Texas, but also showing elevated rates of associated heart disease in afflicted individuals. The researcher’s findings showed that the CDC’s national estimate of 300,000 people infected with Chagas disease may be 50 times greater.
The Baylor team has monitored a group of 17 people who tested positive for Chagas after donating blood in order to track their clinical outcomes. Of those patients, over 40% went on to develop manifestations of severe Chagas disease, which included flabby, weakened hearts and abnormal heart rhythms such as arrhythmias. “We’re the first to actively follow-up with positive blood donors to assess their cardiac outcomes and to determine where southeastern Texas donors may have been exposed to Chagas,” says Melissa Nolan Garcia, the epidemiologist who led the Baylor team. Their research finds that Chagas is a significant risk factor for life-threatening forms of cardiac disease and highlights the serious need for closer monitoring of transmission in Texas.
Many of the cases were diagnosed in people with no history of significant international travel to endemic areas, strongly suggesting that their infections are homegrown. Several individuals lived in rural areas or reported frequently engaging in outdoor activity, greatly increasing their exposure to triatomine bugs. The Baylor research suggests that those living in rural regions of Texas may be at the greatest risk of contracting Chagas, a disease of which the public is barely aware, if at all.
Rebecca Kreston, June 1, 2013, “Coming to America” Neglected Tropical Diseases are Here.