An Unfolding Tragedy of Chagas Disease in North America

In North America, Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis caused by Trypanosoma cruzi) was first reported in Mexico in 1940 [1] and in the United States in Texas in 1955 [2]. However, based on ancient mummified remains discovered in the Rio Grande Valley, human T. cruzi infection has been present in North America since prehistoric times [3].

T. cruzi is a protozoan hemoflagellate that is most commonly transmitted to humans by blood-feeding triatomine bugs followed by autoinoculation [2]. Chagas disease can also be transmitted to man by non-vectorial mechanisms, namely mother-to-child-transmission [4], blood transfusion, and orally through food-borne transmission. When untreated in the acute stage, the disease becomes chronic and up to 30% or more of infected individuals will progress to Chagasic cardiomyopathy or megavisceral disease associated with debilitating morbidity or death. Today, Chagas disease is a leading cause of heart disease among people living in extreme poverty in the Western Hemisphere, especially in Latin America, where it is a major parasitic killer [2].

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