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Poor Americans in the United States suffer hidden burden of parasitic and other neglected diseases
Date:12/25/2007

Large numbers of the poorest Americans living in the United States are suffering from some of the same parasitic infections that affect the poor in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, says the Editor-in-Chief of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

In an article entitled Poverty and Neglected Diseases in the Other America, Professor Peter Hotez (George Washington University and the Sabin Vaccine Institute) says that there is evidence that the parasitic diseases toxocariasis, cysticercosis and toxoplasmosis as well as other neglected infections are very common in the United States, especially among poor and underrepresented minority populations living in inner cities and poor rural areas. Such infections are known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) because they afflict mostly poor people and are often ignored by public health officials and political leaders despite their enormous medical importance.

Toxocariasis, caused by the roundworm Toxocara canis, is now a common parasitic infection among inner city African-American and Hispanic children. Possibly as many as 23% of Americans living in poverty are exposed to this parasitic worm, in whom it causes a lung disease that resembles asthma, as well as liver and brain disease. Cysticercosis, caused by the tapeworm Taenia solium, is emerging as the leading cause of epilepsy among Hispanic populations in the US, and toxoplasmosis is an important cause of congenital birth defects among Mexican Americans and African Americans.

"Because these parasitic infections only occur among impoverished people and mostly underrepresented minorities in the US," he says, "I believe that there has been a lack of political will to study the problem. It is easier to allow these diseases of poverty to simply remain neglected."

In addition to the neglected diseases above, significant numbers of American schoolchildren living in poor areas may also be infected with other parasites, including Ascaris r
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Contact: Mary Kohut
Press@plos.org
Public Library of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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