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Chagas Disease Especially Harmful For Expectant Mothers; New, Better Treatments Needed

“Chagas disease — a parasitic infection transmitted through an insect commonly known as the ‘kissing bug’ — is one of the most common infections among pregnant women in the Western Hemisphere,” Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “It can be found all over Latin America, from Mexico and Central America to Paraguay and Argentina,” he writes, adding, “For expectant mothers, what makes Chagas disease especially harmful is that it can be passed to their unborn children, causing highly lethal congenital infections.”

However, he continues, “few obstetricians are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of Chagas disease — making it particularly difficult to accurately diagnose and prevent maternal-child transmission.” Hotez cites newly released prevalence statistics for Spain, which he calls “truly scary,” and continues, “We desperately need new and better treatments. Most pregnant women with Chagas disease go undiagnosed.” He discusses a drug and a vaccine currently in development, highlights a tropical disease clinic established in Houston, Texas, through a partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Medical Center, where he serves as dean, and concludes, “Our hope is that between the clinic and our vaccine development activities we can help expectant mothers today and make sure this disease is history before they are grandmothers” (5/2).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.