Texas A&M Researches Chagas Disease

Jamie JohansenAg Group, Research

texas A&MTo keep both animals and humans protected from Chagas disease, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and the wildlife and fisheries sciences department of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have been studying the parasite-host-vector interaction at sites in South Central Texas.

Chagas is the common name for a disease transmitted by insects and animals that can cause severe symptoms, even death, in humans. It is responsible for an estimated 50,000 deaths annually in Latin American countries, according to the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 8 to 11 million people throughout Latin America have the disease, the majority of whom do not even realize they are infected.

Nineteen cases of Chagas in humans were reported to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in 2013, but health officials feel the actual number of infections is higher due to misdiagnosis or non-reporting.

“Over the past several years, a number of animals in the South Central Texas area have shown symptoms of Chagas, and the presence of the disease had been confirmed through blood tests,” said Troy Luepke, who was the research assistant with Texas A&M AgriLife Research collecting much of the data used in the study.

Luepke, who is based in San Antonio, said there is additional concern in the scientific community that these instances will increase because of the possibility of dogs exposing humans to the disease. Dogs, especially those in rural areas, are more likely to come into contact with the triatomine bugs and other mammals that may transmit the disease.

Chagas is caused by infection from the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, also known as T. cruzi. The parasite is vectored by certain triatomine bugs, which go by names like kissing bugs, assassin bugs, cone-nosed bugs and blood-suckers. These bugs take a “blood meal” from mammals and then transmit the parasite by depositing their waste into the wound.

Read the complete release to learn more about the research efforts on Chagas disease in Texas.