Study finds more than one percent of Latin American-born Los Angeles residents are infected with Chagas disease

According to a recent study of nearly 5,000 Latin American-born Los Angeles County residents, approximately 1.24 percent tested positive for Chagas disease, which can cause life-threatening conditions in the heart if not properly treated.

The study was coordinated by the Center for Excellence for Chagas Disease (CECD), with support from the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) and Doctors Without Borders.

Out of 4,755 people screened by CECD, 59 tested positive for the disease. The study suggests that there are approximately 30,000 infected people in the Los Angeles area.

Chagas disease is one of the leading causes of heart failure among Latin American people. It is transmitted from the bite of a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi and can cause various cardiac, digestive, and neurological disorders. Approximately 30 percent of all those infected with Chagas disease will develop serious ailments.

“Less than 1% with the infection are receiving treatment for Chagas disease,” Sheba Meymandi, director of the CECD, said. “Without treatment many Chagas patients are at risk of a ‘silent death’ due to heart failure. Our study demonstrates the need for similar research in other states, and underscores the critical importance of early detection and treatment to tackle this public health challenge in the US.”

CECD said their study was the first to backup the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) estimate that 300,000 people in the United States carry Chagas disease and that approximately 5.7 million people are infected worldwide.

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