Washington: Chagas disease, a parasitic malady that can cause heart problems and is prevalent mainly in Latin America, has been detected in patients in the southern United States, according to a report.
Researchers analysed the routine tests performed on blood donors in Texas between 2008 and 2012 to detect Chagas disease. The tests that have been obligatory in the US since 2007 for people who donate blood, and they found that one out of every 6,500 donors tested positive, Xinhua reported.
That figure is 50 times greater than the infection rate estimated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which says that there are 300,000 cases of Chagas disease nationwide.
The study headed by Melissa Nolan Garcia, an expert in tropical health at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, was presented during the 63rd annual meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene being held this week in New Orleans.
Garcia said that this is not a disease brought from another country or one that has arrived in the US due to immigrant flows, but rather it "has already been here for some time".
"There are people who may have contracted it during a trip, but we also have evidence of infected people who have always lived here and have never left the country," a situation that, she said, is a sign of local infection.
Of the 40 "kissing bugs" collected in 11 Texas counties, researchers found that 73 percent carried the parasite and half of them showed signs of having fed on human blood.
Chagas disease, or American trypanosomiasis, is potentially fatal and normally spread to people through blood-sucking kissing bugs as they feed on people's faces while they are asleep.
The disease, which can also be spread through infected blood, affects 7 to 8 million people worldwide and is curable if diagnosed early enough.