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Chagas: The new AIDS?

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Chagas, a tropical disease spread by insects, is causing a wave of concern following a publication in a medical journal—that calls it “the new AIDS of the Americas.”

More than 8 million people have been infected by Chagas, most of them in Latin and Central America. More than 300,000 of those affected live in the United States.

The editorial, published by the Public Library of Science’s Neglected Tropical Diseases, said the spread of the disease is reminiscent of the early years of HIV.

“There are a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas disease and people living with HIV/AIDS,” the authors wrote, “particularly for those with HIV/AIDS who contracted the disease in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

Both diseases disproportionately affect people living in poverty, both are chronic conditions requiring prolonged, expensive treatment, and as with patients in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, “most patients with Chagas disease do not have access to health care facilities.”

Unlike HIV, Chagas is not a sexually-transmitted disease: it’s “caused by parasites transmitted to humans by blood-sucking insects,” as the New York Times put it.

“It likes to bite you on the face,” CNN reported. “It’s called the kissing bug. When it ingests your blood, it excretes the parasite at the same time. When you wake up and scratch the itch, the parasite moves into the wound and you’re infected.”

“Gaaah,” Cassie Murdoch wrote on Jezebel.com, summing up the sentiment of everyone who read the journal’s report.

Chagas, also known as American trypanosomiasis, kills about 20,000 people per year, the journal said.

The problem is once the heart symptoms start, which is the most dreaded complication—the Chagas cardiomyopathy—the medicines no longer work very well,” Dr. Peter Hotez, a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine and one of the editorial’s authors, told CNN. “Problem No. 2: the medicines are extremely toxic.”

And 11 per cent of pregnant women in Latin America are infected with Chagas, the journal said.

(Source: Yahoo News)

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2 Comments

  1. Dharma

    June 9, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    OMG! are you serious. Its a great panic for us then

  2. Mosa

    July 7, 2012 at 8:36 am

    HIV is the virus that damages the imumne system by killing CD4 cells. A diagnosis of AIDS is given once the CD4 cell count drops to 200 or below. The problem with a person who has HIV coming in contact with the virus again is that the virus is constantly mutating. That could cause serious problems with treatment and the way the body responds to the virus. For instance, if 2 people in a sexual relationship both have HIV, it is possible that they could each have a different strain of the virus. That means that if they have unprotected sex and infect each other with their different strains, medications they are currently taking may not work as well on the different strain, and their bodies may not respond the same way to the different strain, increasing the chance of them becoming sick more quickly. That’s why, even if both people in a sexual relationship have HIV, they should have protected sex. The mutation is also the main reason why there is no cure for HIV at this point.

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