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Am J Med. 1987 May;82(5):915-20.

American trypanosomiasis (Chagas' disease) in Central American immigrants.


A survey was conducted to determine the prevalence of infection with Trypanosoma cruzi, the protozoan etiologic agent of American trypanosomiasis (Chagas' disease), among Nicaraguan and Salvadoran immigrants living in the Washington, D.C., area. The serum samples of study subjects were tested for reactivity with T. cruzi antigens in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and also tested for antibody specific for the 72 and 90 kilodalton (kDa) surface glycoproteins of the parasite in an immunoprecipitation and electrophoresis procedure. Xenodiagnosis using reduviid bugs to detect parasites, and clinical evaluations for cardiac and gastrointestinal disease were performed in patients in whom results of both serologic tests were positive. Of 205 subjects studied, 4.9 percent were infected with T. cruzi, and parasites were isolated from 50 percent of those in whom xenodiagnosis was attempted. No significant cardiac or gastrointestinal abnormalities were detected in the six infected patients who were evaluated clinically. These findings suggest that a sizable proportion of persons in this immigrant group are infected with this organism. Thus, routine serologic testing for antibody to T. cruzi may be warranted in immigrants from these countries, especially in view of the potentially serious consequences of infection with this parasite, and also because of the risk of transmission of T. cruzi by blood transfusion.

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