South American Bugs Spreading New Disease Similar to HIV


Mosquito’s and bugs from Central & South American are carrying a disease which is being referred as ‘The New AIDS of the Americas”.  In a story published by  PLoS Neglected under Tropical Diseases; Chagas disease, is caused by parasites transmitted to humans by blood-sucking insects. 

Tropical disease experts from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, argue that the dangerous spread of Chagas through this hemisphere somewhat resembles the early spread of H.I.V. Chagas is also known as American trypanosomiasis, because the bugs carry single-celled parasites called trypanosomes. (Their best-known relative, spread by tsetse flies in Africa, causes sleeping sickness.)

Like AIDS, the authors say, Chagas disease has a long incubation time and is hard or impossible to cure. Chagas infects up to 8 million people in the hemisphere, mostly in Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia and Central America. But more than 300,000 of the infected live in the United States, many of them immigrants. The disease can be transmitted from mother to child or by blood transfusion. About 25% of its victims eventually will develop enlarged hearts or intestines, which can fail or burst, causing sudden death. Treatment involves harsh drugs taken for up to three months and works only if the disease is caught early. The drugs are not as expensive as AIDS drugs, but there are shortages in poor countries. Because it is a disease of the poor, little money is spent on finding new treatments.

“Both diseases are highly stigmatizing,” the editorial noted. Immigrants may not get medical treatment, making Chagas more likely to spread.  Now remember, HIV/AIDS can’t be spread by bugs or mosquito’s so this is a different disease that is catching the attention of scientists.  Make sure this summer you use proper bug repellent with outdoor activities or near bodies of water. Now you know.

Tom Thayer




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *