Chagas Disease From Kissing Bugs May Threaten Texas

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First there was drought, and now Texas may be facing a problem with Chagas disease, which is transmitted by kissing bugs. According to Sahotra Sarkar, professor of integrative biology and philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin, “this year the number of disease-causing insects is quite amazing.”

Chagas disease is a tropical parasitic disease

Chagas disease, which is common in rural areas of Latin America, is carried by kissing bugs (triatomine bugs) that carry the protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes the disease. The disease is associated with life-threatening digestive and heart disorders.

Data collected by Sarkar, who is the lead author of the new research, indicate that South Texas is at high risk for Chagas infection. A network of researchers and health professionals around the state are keeping their eyes open for cases of the disease.

Chagas disease has two phases, acute and chronic. During the acute phase, people may have no symptoms or only mild ones, such as fever, malaise, swelling of one eye, and a swollen red area where they were bit by the insect. The disease then goes into remission, often for years, and then may present with constipation, digestive problems, abdominal pain, enlarged lymph nodes, enlarged liver and spleen, irregular heartbeat, rapid heartbeat, and problems with swallowing.

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Sarkar noted that most doctors in Texas are not familiar with the disease. Because it has flu-like symptoms during the acute phase and signs and symptoms that can be associated with old age during the chronic phase, Chagas disease can go undiagnosed.

Complications of Chagas disease may include cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), an enlarged colon, an enlarged esophagus (megaesophagus), heart disease, heart failure, and malnutrition. It can take 20 years or longer from the time of the original infection before the chronic phase develops.

Because it is uncertain at this time how widespread the disease is in Texas, Sarkar and his colleagues recommend health professionals report incidences of it to the Texas Department of State Health Services and have mandatory screening of blood donations for the disease. Efforts also should be made to identify the prevalence of Chagas in humans, dogs, and especially rats, which often act as reservoirs of the disease.

SOURCE:
Sarkar S et al. Chagas disease risk in Texas. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2011; 4(10): e836

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

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Comments

I have been constipated for years, when I say constipated, I go every 10 to 12 days. I have been diagnosed with MVP about four years ago because of heart palpitations, I'm completely drained of energy all the time. I used to be so energetic. My hands and feet ache all the time. My mouth and throat are always dry, I was tested for Lupus and got a false positive and then tested positive for Sjogerns, (which is a form of Lupus) so they stopped testing and said yep that's it. But perhaps it's this bug. I lived in Lake Jackson, TX for ten years, Corpus Christi, TX for six years, visited the Dominican Republic in 2006.
We think we may have this. We live in Austin/ We have digital photos and specimans. Who can help us? please call 512-635-3389 [email protected]
we need help . we beieve we have Chagas. Please call 512-635-3389
You might try contacting the principles of the study in this article, as well as the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Association of Local Health Officials.