‘Kissing Bug’ Can Lead to Dangerous Parasite Infection While You Sleep

sA rare parasitic infection called Chagas disease has been gaining headlines in recent weeks after cases of the infection were reported in at least five states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chagas disease, which can cause long-term cardiac damage, is mainly found in rural Central and South America, but some experts are concerned that cases are beginning to rise in southern U.S. states. Infections have been reported in Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas, according to the CDC.

The disease is caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite and is spread almost exclusively through bites from the triatomine insect, also called the “kissing bug,” since it usually bites around the eyes and mouth, usually when they come out to feed at night. In rural Central and South America, the bugs are often found in the walls of homes made from mud, adobe or straw. The insect has also been found in other U.S. states but that does not necessarily mean the bugs carry the parasite, experts said.

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Chagas disease: changes in knowledge and management

hhMore than 100 years after the discovery of human American trypanosomiasis by Carlos Chagas, our knowledge and management of the disease are profoundly changing. Substantial progress made by disease control programmes in most endemic areas contrasts with persisting difficulties in the Gran Chaco region in South America and the recent emergence of the disease in non-endemic areas because of population movements. In terms of pathogenesis, major discoveries have been made about the life cycle and genomics of Trypanosoma cruzi, and the role of the parasite itself in the chronic phase of the disease. From a clinical perspective, a growing number of arguments have challenged the notion of an indeterminate phase, and suggest new approaches to manage patients. New methods such as standardised PCR will be necessary to ensure follow-up of this chronic infection. Although drugs for treatment of Chagas disease are limited, poorly tolerated, and not very effective, treatment indications are expanding. The results of the Benznidazole Evaluation For Interrupting Trypanosomiasis (BENEFIT) trial in 2012 will also help to inform treatment. Mobilisation of financial resources to fund research on diagnosis and randomised controlled trials of treatment are international health priorities.

KaloBios Still in Talks to Buy Chagas Disease Drug

dKaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc. may yet land benznidazole, the Chagas’ disease treatment that it was attempting to buy when former chief executive Martin Shkreli was arrested for securities fraud.

In a bankruptcy court filing Wednesday, Savant Neglected Diseases LLC, which owns the drug rights, said it has been in talks with KaloBios about possibly going through with the deal announced in early December, when Mr. Shkreli was still at the helm of the company.

The affidavit, from Savant executive Stephen Hurst, says a deal isn’t off the table for benznidazole, despite KaloBios’s bankruptcy. The filing came ahead of a Thursday court hearing where U.S. Trustee Andrew Vara will seek to have an independent trustee appointed to run the struggling pharmaceutical company.

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A Serious Epidemic Could Be Looming in Texas – Chagas Disease

gggThis disease is NOT to be taken lightly. It is widespread and serious. This could be a deadly epidemic looming and yet nobody is taking notice or reporting it in the mainstream press.

What is this disease?

According to PLoS Neglected Tropical Disease website a group of infectious disease specialists, virologists and epidemiologists state that Chagas disease is the real deal and should not be taken lightly.

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America’s War on the Kissing Bug

qqIf Thomas Cropper, a public-health veterinarian at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas, thought about Chagas disease at all, he thought about it as a Central and South American problem. Named after the Brazilian physician who described it, in 1909, Chagas is a classic—one might say egregious—example of a neglected tropical disease. It is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is delivered to its host by kissing bugs, known formally as triatomines. The bugs are bloodsuckers—their nickname comes from their penchant for biting near the eyes or mouth—and they can swell to the size of grapes as they feed, causing them to defecate and leave the parasite behind to make its way into the host’s bloodstream. A gross and not particularly efficient mode of transmission, it’s still good enough to have kept Chagas going since pre-Columbian times. According to the World Health Organization’s shifting estimates, between six and seven million people in Latin America are currently infected. If you’re infected but don’t have symptoms, you’re likely to find out only after donating blood. If you do have symptoms, you’re probably in trouble. About a third of Chagas patients develop a chronic form that leads to heart damage and failure.

Cropper specializes mainly in zoonoses—diseases transmissible from animals to humans—and in keeping service members away from them. Not long after he arrived at Lackland, in 2008, he learned that a military working dog had developed heart problems while deployed in Kuwait. The dog was returned to Lackland, the home of the Department of Defense’s canine school, and confirmed positive for Chagas. A study of all the working dogs on base, in fact, found that about eight per cent had antibodies against T. cruzi. Many never developed symptoms at all, but young pups would sometimes drop dead without warning. Cropper began asking about Chagas and what the risks might be for humans. “What else are these stupid bugs feeding on?” he wondered. This turned out to be a somewhat urgent question, because Lackland is where about thirty-five thousand Air Force and National Guard recruits are trained every year, often outdoors. The base encompasses a vast, cactus-strewn wilderness with populations of wood rats, armadillos, skunks, opossums, and other easy targets for a kissing bug.

Cropper called in an entomologist, Walter Roachell, and a microbiologist, Candelaria Daniels, from the Army Public Health Command at Joint Base San Antonio. Roachell found five species of kissing bug at Lackland, some in the nests dug by wood rats in the bottoms of cacti. A training instructor who accompanied Roachell claimed that he’d never before seen one of the bugs, even though certain species are distinctive—pretty, even—with their folded wings encircled by what could be described as a striped skirt. “I looked down and pointed out one crawling between his feet,” Roachell told me. Daniels, meanwhile, sought to determine the bugs’ infection rates. More than half of them, her analysis revealed, carried T. cruzi. They were eating a lot of things—wood rats, armadillos, even rattlesnakes. And, more alarmingly, nearly thirty per cent tested positive for human blood. “They were indeed feeding on people,” she said. Cropper had vegetation cut back, insecticide sprayed, and treated bed nets installed where trainees slept, and similar measures were taken around the kennels. At one point, a routine blood donation by an airman, who had neither a history of travel to Latin America nor a mother likely to have transmitted the disease to him in utero, turned up positive. He remembered suffering a swelling around his eye—one early sign of a Chagas infection—which he blamed on dirt. It “may have been feces from the kissing bug,” Cropper said, but no one was really sure.

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