Bedbugs found at two San Diego County buildings

By: Michael Chen

SAN MARCOS, Calif. (KGTV) – Bedbugs, the bane of many homeowners, were discovered lurking inside several San Diego County buildings last week.

10News was tipped off to a bedbug infestation at a county building: the Agricultural Weights and Measures building in San Marcos.

The county confirmed to 10News, bedbugs were found there and another building from the same department in Kearny Mesa.  As for how it happened, a county spokesperson revealed only that an employee is the cause and public areas were not affected.

Workers from the Agricultural Weights and Measures Department, which provides pest control for the county, have laid traps, monitored for bed bugs, and moved employees to a separate area.

Garrett Thrasher is Vice President of Thrasher Pest Control.  He says the typical plan of attack could also involve K9 alerting, vacuuming, steam cleaning and sometimes chemical treatments.

“From there, it’s weekly checks to make sure there is no new activity or complaint,” said Thrasher.

Thrasher says bedbug calls have been increasing over the last few months and are slightly up from the same time last year.

More than a dozen sick from bed bug spray in NYC building

By Stephanie Pagones and Cedar Attanasio

More than a dozen people were sickened Thursday by fumes caused by an exterminator treating for bed bugs at a Lower Manhattan government building, authorities said.

The 17 stricken victims — some of whom were vomiting — had inhaled the noxious fumes shortly after 11 a.m. inside the David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street, an FDNY spokesman said.

“We had people passing out and throwing up all over the place,” said a female employee of the Controller’s Office, Bureau of Accountancy, who asked that her name not be used.

She said the problem originated in her office, and that about half of her co-workers were made sick.

Of the 17 victims, 14 were treated at the scene. Three people were taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital for further evaluation, the fire department spokesman said.

The exterminator was treating bed bugs that were discovered last week, police said.

“They’ve been exterminating but now they found more bugs Monday and Wednesday so they exterminated a lot,” the Bureau of Accountancy employee said.

It’s the second wave of pests to plague the office, according to employees.

The bed bugs were discovered in April, during an ongoing battle against mites that were discovered in September 2017.

“The mites and now the bed bugs,” said Gary, a city employee on same floor, who gave only his first name. “They exterminate and exterminate and it don’t do anything because they need to get rid of the rug.”

“The mites and now the bed bugs,” said Gary, a city employee on same floor, who gave only his first name. “They exterminate and exterminate and it don’t do anything because they need to get rid of the rug.”

Prenatal blood screening may predict Zika virus-associated fetal defects

Authors

  1. Postdoctoral scholar, University of Southern California

  2. Postdoctoral scholar, University of Southern California

The sudden and rampant outbreak of Zika virus in 2016 terrified pregnant women, particularly those residing in Zika-endemic regions, such as Brazil, as well as those in the U.S. Their fear was justified given the link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy with having a small head, a condition known as microcephaly, and other congenital defects.

The absence of early prenatal diagnosis, or treatment, for birth defects has left thousands of mothers-to-be worrying about their baby’s well-being. Others, meanwhile, have terminated their pregnancy rather than risk having a child with birth defects.

Our research revolves around mosquito-borne viruses such as Chikungunya virus and Zika virus. Each causes a distinct set of symptoms. Chikungunya virus produces debilitating persistent joint pain in adults and neurological symptoms in children; Zika virus causes defects in babies. In Jae Jung’s lab at the University of Southern California, we are investigating the mechanisms that underlie the devastating consequences of these viral infections and developing new prenatal diagnostic tests to determine whether Zika babies are in good health.

A fellow student gently strokes Jose Wesley Campos, who was born with the Zika-caused microcephaly birth defect, at an early education daycare center in Bonito, Brazil. AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Zika and pregnancy

Zika is the first mosquito-borne virus known to cause congenital defects. Aedes aegypti, one of the most invasive and widespread species of mosquito, is the primary vector for transmitting Zika. When healthy individuals, who are not pregnant, are infected with the Zika virus the infection often escapes notice because the symptoms are mild or negligible. However, infection during the first and second trimester of pregnancy boosts the risk of miscarriages and diverse fetal defects such as eye abnormalities, neurological impairmentand in more severe cases, microcephaly.

Health workers try to assess the health of Zika babies using ultrasound during the second trimester or later. But it is difficult to see from these images whether the baby has developmental abnormalities.

On the other hand, fetal MRI captures high-resolution snapshots of the fetus. But this imaging technique can only be used in the second or third trimesters – when it is more difficult to terminate a pregnancy. A diagnostic assay that could detect abnormalities early in the pregnancy could alleviate the mother’s stress and make it easier to make swift reproductive decisions.

Developing a new diagnostic test

During the Zika outbreak in Brazil, there were other co-circulating mosquito-borne viruses such as Dengue virus and Chikungunya virus. So we also chose to take blood samples from women from the U.S. where these viruses are not endemic. In our recent research, we surveyed blood samples from 74 pregnant women: 30 were Zika-positive, 30 were negative and 14 were from women in Los Angeles. This study was led by Jae Jung, in collaboration with Patrícia Brasil of the Instituto Nacional de Infectologia Evandro Chagas in Brazil, and Karin Nielsen-Saines and Genhong Cheng of UCLA.

A researcher in Jae Jung’s lab investigates brain defects in specimens of fetal tissue obtained from a Zika-infected patient. Weiqiang Chen

Our findings revealed an elevated production of 16 specific protein biomarkers, which are present in the blood of pregnant women who gave birth to babies with developmental delays and eye abnormalities. These biomarkers are potentially useful for predicting the outcomes of Zika pregnancies simply using blood specimens from the mother-to-be at any stage of pregnancy.

The number of Zika cases has dramatically declined following the major outbreaks in 2016. Yet, many Zika babies are still suffering from the dire consequences of prenatal infection. With the widespread abundance of Aedes mosquitoes, and the fact that Zika virus has not been eradicated, new outbreaks of Zika can occur anytime.

We are continuing our research to understand how Zika disrupts the development of the fetus, treatment strategies for babies affected by the virus, and ways to prevent Zika infection in the first place. Only when we have a thorough understanding of Zika infections can we assure the health of future generations.

Zika Vaccine Needed Now More Than Ever

Article by

Don Ward Hackett

Eradication of the Zika Virus unlikely in the Americas
funny looking monkey

November 5th, 2018 – Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and the Faculty of Medicine of Sao Jose do Rio in Brazil are the 1st to report that complete eradication of the Zika virus in the Americas very unlikely.

This claim is because wild monkeys in the Americas have been found transmitting the Zika virus to humans via mosquitoes.

“Our findings change our understanding of the ecology and transmission of Zika virus in the Americas,” said senior author Nikos Vasilakis, Ph.D., UTMB professor in the department of pathology.

“The possibility of a natural transmission cycle involving local mosquitoes and wild local primates as a reservoir and amplification host will definitely impact our predictions of new outbreaks in the Americas.”

A critical factor for the development of public health strategies to mitigate the risk of continued human Zika disease is whether a sylvatic cycle of Zika transmission is likely to become established in South America, as it occurred centuries ago for yellow fever virus after it was imported from Africa.

Additionally, Dr. Vasilakis said ‘disease outbreaks among animals will always be a source of epidemics in humans, even after a possible control and suppression of urban transmission through vaccination and treatments is established.’

The combined research team identified wild, non-human primate carcasses that tested positive for the American Zika virus lineage in 2 Brazilian cities.

They studied 82 monkey carcasses (free-living marmosets and capuchin) from January to June of 2017 and found 32 (39%) were Zika-positive, in at least 1 tissue sample.

“This is a game changer for people involved with disease control – including vaccine developers, public health officials, and policymakers,” said senior author Mauricio Lacerda Nogueira, a professor from the Faculty of Medicine of Sao Jose do Rio in Brazil.

This an important finding since the USA and it’s territories continue to report Zika cases.

Cumulative cases reported January 1, 2015 – October 31, 2018:

  • US States and DC: 5,734
  • US Territories: 37,294

In a separate press release, David Dodd, GeoVax President & CEO, commented, “This study highlights the importance of a vaccine solution for Zika.”

“Our vaccine candidate, GEO-ZM02, has demonstrated 100% single-dose protection in mice against a lethal dose of Zika virus. We have also initiated discussions with potential collaborators in Brazil in preparation for human clinical trials.”

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Sao Paulo Research Foundation in Brazil.

Other researchers include UTMB’s Steven Widen as well as Ana Terzian, Nathalia Zini, Livia Sacchetto, Rebeca Rocha, Maisa Parra, Juliana Del Sarto, Ana Dias, Felipe Coutinho, Jessica Rayra, Rafael da Silva, Vivian Costa, Natalia Fernandes, Rodrigo Ressio, Josue Diaz-Delgado, Juliana Guerra, Mariana Cunha, Jose Catao-Dias, Cintia Bittar, Andreia Reis, Izalco dos Santos, Andreia Ferreira, Lilian Cruz, Paula Rahal, Leila Ullmann, Camila Malossi, Joao de Araujo Jr., Izabela de Rezende, Erica Mello, Carolina Pacca, Erna Kroon, Giliane Trindade, Betania Drumond, Francisco Chiaravalloti-Neto and Mauro Teixeira from Brazil.

No financial conflicts were disclosed.

 

We’re Not Gluten Intolerant, We’re Glyphosate Intolerant

Study blames Roundup herbicide for gluten intolerance and celiac disease epidemic

“Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it,” researchers wrote in a meta-analysis of nearly 300 studies.

“Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup®, is the most important causal factor in this epidemic,” they add.

The study, published in the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology in 2013, was completely ignored by the media except for Mother Earth News and The Healthy Home Economist.

Now that glyphosate is getting the attention it deserves, being named as the culprit in a $280 million cancer lawsuit and labeled as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the state of California, it may be time to look at the chemical’s role in a related disease:

The symptoms of so-called “gluten intolerance” and celiac disease in are shockingly similar to the symptoms in lab animals exposed to glyphosate, argue the study’s authors Anthony Samsel, an independent scientist who’s served as a consultant to the EPA on arsenic pollution and to the U.S. Coast Guard on chemical hazard response, and Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT.

 

They point to a recent study on how glyphosate effects the digestive systems of fish. It decreased digestive enzymes and bacteria, disrupted mucosal folds, destroyed microvilli structure in the intestinal wall, and increased secretion of mucin.

“These features are highly reminiscent of celiac disease,” Samsel and Seneff write.

Additionally, the number of people diagnosed with gluten intolerance and celiac disease has risen in tandem with the increased use of glyphosate in agriculture, especially with the recent practice of drenching grains in the herbicide right before harvest, which started in the 1980s and became routine in the 1990s:

While some suggest the recent surge in celiac disease is due simply to better diagnostic tools (which as you can see above happened around 2000), a recent study suggests it’s more than that.

In 2009, researchers looked for gluten antibodies in frozen immune serum obtained between 1948 and 1954 for gluten antibodies, and compared them with samples from people today. They found a 4-fold increase in the incidence of celiac disease in the younger generation.

As further evidence the researchers make the following points:

“Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria.”

“Celiac disease is associated with the impairment of cytochrome P450 enzymes. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes.”

“Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements.”

“Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine and selenomethionine associated with celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids.”

“Celiac disease patients also have a known increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has also been implicated in glyphosate exposure.”

“The incidence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma has increased rapidly in most Western countries over the last few decades. Statistics from the American Cancer Society show an 80% increase since the early 1970’s, when glyphosate was first introduced on the market.”

“Reproductive issues associated with celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate.”

Glyphosate residues in grain, sugar and other crops are increasing recently likely due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to harvest, the researchers say. The secretive, illegal practice has become routine among conventional farmers since the 1990s.

Ironically, the practice increases yields by killing the crops. Just before the plants die, they release their seeds in order to propagate the species:

“It goes to seed as it dies. At its last gasp, it releases the seed,” Seneff told The Healthy Home Economist.

Moral of the story? We need to go glyphosate-free, not gluten-free. And that means going organic, especially when it comes to grains and animals who eat those grains. Well, you might need to go gluten-free too for a while, until you’ve healed your gut.

 

From: https://returntonow.net/2018/09/04/were-not-gluten-intolerant-were-glyphosate-intolerant/

Columbus lands at No. 5 on Orkin’s ‘Top 50 Bed Bugs Cities’ list

by Sarah Wynn

Bed bug (Courtesy: MGN)

Here’s a scary sentence: Orkin released their top 50 ‘Bed Bug Cities’ list and Columbus ranks number five.

Joining Columbus, Cincinnati ranks behind at No.6.

Additionally, Cleveland / Akron-Canton ranks at No. 14, and Dayton ranks at No. 34.

The pest-control company says the list is based on treatment data where Orkin performed the most bed bug treatments from December 1, 2016, to November 30, 2017. The ranking includes both residential and commercial treatments.

For the second year in a row, Baltimore tops the list. The following cities round out the top 10:

  1. Baltimore
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Chicago
  4. Los Angeles (+2)
  5. Columbus, Ohio
  6. Cincinnati (+2)
  7. Detroit
  8. New York (-4)
  9. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
  10. Dallas-Fort Worth (+5)

“The number of bed bug infestations in the United States is still rising,” says Dr. Tim Husen, an Orkin entomologist. “They continue to invade our homes and businesses on a regular basis because they are not seasonal pests, and only need blood to survive,” he says.

“Any type of home is prone to bud begs. It has nothing to do with sanitation. We have treated for bed bugs everywhere, from newly built upscale homes to public housing,” Husen says.

While traveling, Orkin suggests the following S.L.E.E.P acronym to inspect for bed bugs:

Survey the hotel room for signs of an infestation. Be on the lookout for tiny, ink-colored stains on mattress seams, in soft furniture and behind headboards.

Lift and look in bed bug hiding spots: the mattress, box spring, and other furniture, as well as behind baseboards, pictures and even torn wallpaper.

Elevate luggage away from the bed and wall. The safest places are in the bathroom or on counters.

Examine your luggage carefully while repacking and once you return home from a trip. Always store luggage away from the bed.

Place all dryer-safe clothing from your luggage in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting after you return home.

 

Honeybees at risk from Zika pesticides

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

Up to 13% of US beekeepers are in danger of losing their colonies due to pesticides sprayed to contain the Zika virus, new research suggests.

Zika – which can cause severe brain defects in unborn children – is spread by mosquitoes, so the insects are being targeted in the southern US where Zika-carrying mosquito species live. The new research, by the University of Exeter and the University of California, Berkeley, was sparked by a 2016 media report on millions of honeybees killed by Zika spraying. Honeybees are not native to the US and most colonies are kept by beekeepers, who play a key role in agriculture by helping to pollinate crops.

By comparing data on bee densities with areas at risk from Zika, the researchers calculated the percentage of colonies that could be affected.

“A colony unexpectedly exposed to pesticide spraying for mosquitoes would almost certainly be wiped out,” said Lewis Bartlett, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“Beekeepers in the US move their colonies around to support farmers, so a beekeeper with all their bees in one area at a given time could lose them all.”

Mosquitoes are usually targeted for spraying in summer, when the insects are most active, but this is also the key time for honeybees.Some states, such as Florida, have well-established mosquito control programmes and systems to limit the effects on unintended targets such as bees. But the researchers warn other states are less well prepared to organise measures such as warning beekeepers before spraying.

“At the start of this research we spoke to a beekeeper who was caught unawares and lost all her bees,” Bartlett said.

“Beekeeping is a very traditional way of life in the US, with a lot of pride in families who have done it for generations, but many are struggling now.

“Given all the threats facing bees, even a small additional problem could become the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“Many beekeepers live on the breadline, and if something like this changes things so beekeeping is no longer profitable, there will be huge knock-on effects on farming and food prices.”

People in many countries are rightfully concerned about Zika, but Bartlett said research and preparation were essential before embarking on “expensive and environmentally dangerous” mosquito control measures.

The study found a positive correlation between honeybee colony density and areas with suitable conditions for Zika – raising the risk of bees being harmed by anti-Zika spraying.

These areas include Florida, the Gulf Coast and possibly the California Central Valley.The researchers said their study was only possible thanks to data from the USDA and CDC, and regulations overseen by the EPA.

The study focussed on honeybees because being kept by beekeepers means there is more data on them than any other bee species.

Although the findings do not directly translate to other species, Bartlett said honeybees are resilient compared to most bees – so the situation for other species may be similar or even worse.

###

The paper, published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, is entitled: “Identifying regions of risk to honey bees from Zika vector control in the US.”

Florida adds 3 Zika cases

By The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The number of cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus continued to gradually increase last week, with new cases reported in Collier, Palm Beach and Orange counties, according to the state Department of Health website.

As of Monday, the state reported 87 Zika cases this year, up from 84 a week earlier. All but two of the cases are considered “travel” related — generally meaning people were infected elsewhere and brought the disease into the state.

The other two cases were classified as having “undetermined” origin, with both of those cases involving people in Miami-Dade County.

The disease, which caused major concerns in 2016, is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects.

Collier County has had the most Zika cases this year, with 33, followed by Miami-Dade County at 24. They are followed by Orange County at 11 cases, Broward County at six cases, Palm Beach County at five cases and Osceola County at three cases. Lee, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando and Walton counties have each had one case.

Exposure to Pesticides on Aircraft

Please visit Aircrew Safety and Health for more information on NIOSH research on aircraft disinsection and what crewmembers can do to stay healthy and safe at work.

Some countries require that in-bound flights be treated with pesticides to prevent the spread of insects and the diseases they carry. This process is called disinsection. Disinsection methods include spraying the cabin with an insecticide before or after passengers board, while in flight, or treating the aircraft’s inside surfaces while passengers are not on board. Aircrew, groundcrew, and passengers can be exposed to pesticides during disinsection, from contact with treated surfaces, or when eating or drinking products that have come in contact with treated surfaces.

How is disinsection regulated?

Aircraft disinsection is allowed under international law, but not all countries require it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not approved any pesticides for use in passenger cabins on commercial aircraft . The U.S. Department of Transportation provides information on which countries require disinsection on inbound flights.

The only pesticides recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for aircraft disinsection[516 KB] are synthetic pyrethroids (permethrin, d-phenothrin, and 1R-trans-phenothrin). Other pesticides, including DDT (dichlorodiphyltrichloroethane), are no longer used. It is unknown whether all aircraft disinsection adheres to the WHO guidelines regarding disinsection , label directions, and good occupational hygiene practices.

Are there concerns about disinsection?

Crewmembers have reported illness from exposure to pesticides on aircraft, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, respiratory symptoms, skin and eye irritation, and other symptoms. Reports from passengers and air crew suggest that there are major differences in how disinsection is performed. There is some uncertainty over whether long-term exposure to the chemicals used for disinsection might cause health effects in air and ground crew.

What can be done to reduce hazards of disinsection?

  • All aircraft disinsection should adhere to the WHO guidelines regarding disinsection, label directions, and good occupational hygiene practices.
  • Air and groundcrew can talk with their employers or employee representative about their concerns about pesticide exposure.
  • Air and groundcrew should avoid skin contact with surfaces that are still wet with pesticide.
    Please visit Aircrew Safety and Health for more information on NIOSH research on aircraft disinsection and what crewmembers can do to stay healthy and safe at work.

New report finds tropical disease causing heart problems in dogs assisting with homeland security duties

phys.org | 10/31/2018 | Staff

More than 100 working dogs employed by the federal government across the United States have been infected with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, the cause of Chagas disease, which may lead to heart problems, according to a new study presented today at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting. Chagas disease is a tropical infection spread by a blood-sucking triatomine or “kissing bug” that may pose a growing threat in the United States.

Once known only in Mexico, Central America and South America, Chagas is now making tentative incursions into the United States, infecting canines and humans. But the extent of the risk, for either, is not clearly defined.

“We were surprised to find that so many , including those working outside of the kissing bug range, had been exposed to the parasite T. cruzi, and were exhibiting heart abnormalities associated with the disease,” said Alyssa Meyers, a Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University who presented the findings.

The T. cruzi parasite is transmitted through the feces of kissing bugs, so called due to their tendency to feed around the mouth. Infections in humans or dogs initially can produce a fever and fatigue. But even infections that produce no symptoms can lead to an enlarged heart or abnormal heart rhythms that can cause sudden death.

Meyers said that because kissing bugs can thrive in locations with high concentrations of hosts, like dog kennels, dogs in training facilities could be at risk for exposure. These dogs train at facilities in Texas and Virginia, two states with known populations of kissing bugs that carry the Chagas parasite, and it is likely that some dogs were exposed while training in the South.

“From previous studies we knew that shelter and stray dogs were at risk for exposure, likely because of their time spent outdoors, and perhaps the dogs working along the U.S.-Mexico border who spend long hours outside often at night might be equally exposed,” she said. “We were not expecting  in dogs that spend most of their time working along the border with Canada or in airports in Nebraska.”

Meyers and fellow researchers at Texas A&M University worked with colleagues from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect and test blood samples from 1,660 working dogs in 43 states whose duties include border patrol, search and rescue, detecting drugs and explosives, and assisting officers who guard federal buildings. The testing—which was prompted by evidence of Chagas in dogs working on the Mexican border—revealed that 121 dogs, or more than 7 percent tested, had antibodies to T. cruzi, indicating an ongoing infection. Many of the infected dogs also showed signs of heart abnormalities associated with Chagas that can be fatal.

Meyers said that in South America, dogs have served as effective sentinels to provide early warning of Chagas risk to humans, though dogs themselves pose little direct risk of infecting humans. But Meyers added that uncertainty about where the infected dogs picked up the parasite—including dogs now working in states within the kissing bug range—makes it difficult to say what the findings mean for human risks.

Most human cases diagnosed in the U.S. are believed to have been caused by infections picked up in Latin America. But there have been documented cases of locally acquired infections in some of the southern states—Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. In some states this has prompted regular surveillance. Kissing bugs are now found in 27 states and as far north as Delaware. And a growing number of those bugs are known to be carrying the Chagas parasite.

Risks for Dogs May Not Mean Dangers for Humans

Meyers said the discovery of a relatively high rate of Chagas infections in working dogs is not necessarily an indication of an increasing threat to people. “A positive dog usually signals that infected kissing bugs are in the environment,” Meyers noted. “But the risk to humans is likely not equal to dogs, in part because dogs have a tendency to eat bugs that could be infected with the parasite and dogs spend more time outdoors.” Also, unlike the kissing bugs that transmit Chagas in Mexico and Central America, studies show the varieties found in the U.S. are less likely to infest houses, significantly reducing encounters with humans.

Meanwhile, there is concern about how the disease may affect working dogs exposed to the disease, given the many important functions they provide. For example, in 2009, several military working dogs serving alongside U.S. troops conducting bomb detection work in Iraq had to be evacuated due to heart problems linked to Chagas infections, leaving troops without an important member of their team.

“Not all dogs that are exposed to the parasite develop cardiac disease. Many can live a happy, healthy life,” Meyers said. “We are trying to understand why some dogs remain asymptomatic, while others develop Chagas cardiomyopathy. These dogs play a critical role in our country’s security, and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can do to keep them healthy.”

To learn more about the effect of Chagas on the DHS dogs, a subset of the infected dogs were outfitted with wearable electrocardiogram or ECG monitors that allowed researchers to obtain 24 hours of data on cardiac performance. “We just pulled the dogs aside for a few minutes to put on the monitors and then they went right back to work,” Meyers said.

The monitors revealed that over two-thirds of the infected dogs were showing early signs of cardiac problems associated with Chagas.

The dogs are now being monitored for any signs of progression of cardiac problems. But there are no treatments available specifically for dogs infected with Chagas disease, and the researchers said that medications used to protect dogs from fleas and ticks are not known to repel either kissing bugs or the Chagas parasite. There are drugs available to treat human infections, but their efficacy varies and is especially low for infections that have been lingering for a long period undetected.

A follow-up study is planned to explore interventions that can help the DHS dogs avoid exposure to kissing bugs. The researchers also are collecting additional cardiac data from the dogs in an effort to better determine whether the abnormalities detected pose an immediate risk.

“This silent killer Chagas has posed a real risk to humans in certain parts of the country,” said ASTMH President Regina Rabinovich, MD. “Ongoing support for research to track where this disease is and how it got there is crucial, as is enhanced education and training for those in the health sector to better recognize this disease.”