In a recent editorial published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Disease, experts from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have highlighted the ‘dangerous spread’ of Chagas disease, the New York Times reported. Being hailed by the researchers as “the new AIDS of the Americas,” Chagas is caused by parasites that are transmitted to humans by insects that suck blood.
The paper noted that nearly 8 million people contract the disease in the Americas, mostly in Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia and Central America. However, the New York Times reported that as many as 30,000 people living in the United States have the disease, most of them immigrants.
The authors of the paper argued that the spread of Chagas throughout the Western hemisphere closely resembles the early spread of HIV. Just like AIDS, Chagas disease has a lengthy incubation period it is next to impossible to cure, the authors said.
Also known as American trypanosomiasis – because the transmitted parasites are single-celled trypanosomes, Chagas disease can also be transmitted through blood infusions or from mother to child, according to the Times. The disease leads to enlarged hearts or intestines, that can potentially burst and lead to sudden death.
In order to treat Chagas disease, a victim must be diagnosed very early on and take harsh drugs for up to three months.