CDC: Chagas Disease May Be Overlooked in Newborns

Increased awareness needed to screen at-risk mothers and treat offspring

THURSDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that can lead to cardiomyopathy, is usually transmitted by contact with triatomine insects, but it can be passed congenitally, according to a case report published in the July 6 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

Raul A. Lazarte, M.D., of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues describe the case of a baby boy with fetal hydrops delivered at 29 weeks of gestation via cesarean section to a woman who had recently moved to the United States from Bolivia.

After undergoing a battery of tests to determine the cause of his ascites, pleural effusion, and pericardial effusion, the child was diagnosed with Chagas disease at 2 weeks, when Trypanosoma cruzi parasites were found in his blood. The mother reported she had been previously told she had Chagas disease but was not treated for it. The child received a 60-day course of benznidazole; laboratory tests at 10 months showed he was cured.

"This first reported case of congenital transmission of Chagas disease in the United States illustrates that congenital Chagas disease, even when severe, might not be recognized or diagnosis might be delayed because of the lack of defining clinical features or because the diagnosis is not considered," Lazarte and colleagues conclude.

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