Ramping Up Efforts to Diagnose Chagas Disease in Florida

Norman Beatty and other UF scientists are ramping up efforts to diagnose Chagas disease in Florida. Chagas, which is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, is passed primarily via the feces of kissing bugs. Most infected people do not know they carry the parasite. Without treatment, about one-third will develop chronic Chagas, which can attack the heart, brain, and GI systems and can be fatal.

“This parasite is able to survive many decades inside of a human cell and hijack its machinery,” says Beatty. But when diagnosed early, T. cruzi infections can be treated with antiparasitic medications. The team has established a screening program in clinics and hospitals targeting people with high risk of infection. Beatty’s research suggests that using two rapid blood tests simultaneously could be a quick and easy way to diagnose the disease.

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