Tx may be at risk for disease

Study tracking Chagas disease suggests Texas may be a risk

AUSTIN, Texas (UPI) | October 9, 2011

The so-called kissing bug is contributing to the spread of Chagas disease.
Credit: U of Iowa

Chagas disease, a tropical disease that can lead to heart and digestive disorders, may be more widespread in Texas than previously thought, researchers say.

Epidemiological maps prepared by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin suggest south Texas, in particular, is an area of high risk for infection by the parasitic disease.

Endemic to rural areas of Latin America, Chagas disease is often transmitted by triatomine bugs, also known as "kissing bugs."

"We've been studying this for four years now, and this year the number of disease-causing insects is quite amazing," biology Professor Sahotra Sarkar said in a UT release Thursday.

Researchers have been collecting and classifying insects from the field and analyzing them to determine how many of the bugs carry the protozoa Trypanosoma, which causes the disease.

The epidemiological maps are prepared from data including the number and location of carrier insects, recorded human Chagas infections and hospitable habitats for the insects.

They suggest eleven counties in south Texas are at high risk for Chagas infection, and Sarkar says there may already be hundreds of undiagnosed cases of the disease.

Copyright 2011 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

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