Chagas disease in the blood supply

trypanosomes in the bloodIn case you missed it, NPR had a segment on the presence of Chagas’ disease in the American blood supply two weeks ago. Chagas’ disease is transmitted primarily by a true bug, Triatoma infestans, and is endemic in some areas of Central and South America. It causes a whole host of nasty symptoms you really don’t want.

A report was released in April that identified 32 US donors as positive for Chagas. The report released last week identified many more positive donors:

“In the ten months since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensed the first blood-screening test for Chagas’ disease, some 241 blood donations in the United States have tested positive, indicating donor exposure to the parasite known to cause this serious and potentially fatal parasitic infection, according to data released today at the annual meeting of American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). “

If you want to know where the positives are showing up, there’s a surveillance map here.

(Chagas’ interesting connection to Charles Darwin was mentioned earlier this year in the Bug Blog, BTW.)

There also was an odd outbreak of Chagas’ vectored by softdrinks in an area of Brazil that was thought to be Chagas’ free:

“Only last year, after a long and hard-fought campaign of spraying bug-infested houses with residual pyrethroid insecticides, the Pan American Health Organization certified Brazil as free of the domestically transmitted disease. But the disease remains in wildlife and the bugs that feed on them, so now the risk is from bugs accidentally ground up in regional beverages. This is another example of what happens almost every time we think we have controlled a disease – a rump remnant surfaces to bedevil us. “

3 thoughts on “Chagas disease in the blood supply

  1. Timely post for me–my entomology professor just lectured on Chagas’. He and another faculty member (parasitology) were the first to document it in my area (middle Tennessee, as shown on the map). Very cool.

  2. Midge, the good news is they are testing for this, so it’s unlikely to actually be transmitted via transfusion.

    Which is a relief–I was surprised at how many Midwest cases there were!

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