Navigation Links
UGA animal vaccine may slow deadly spread of Chagas disease

Athens, Ga. Chagas disease is the single most common cause of congestive heart failure and sudden death in the world. The devastating parasitic infection affects millions of people throughout Central and South America. But as global travel increases, it's becoming a greater threat in the United States and Europe as well.

Chagas, which is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, or T. cruzi, is the leading cause of death among young-to-middle-age adults in endemic areas of South America, and many people live years without symptoms while their hearts and digestive systems suffer irreparable damage.

Now, thanks in part to a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, University of Georgia researcher Rick Tarleton is close to developing the first vaccine for pets that will ultimately prevent the spread of disease to humans.

"One of the problems with T. cruzi is that it infects not just humans but many different animals," said Tarleton, Distinguished Research Professor in the department of cellular biology and member of the UGA Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. "What that means is that it will never be eradicated; you can't kill or vaccinate all the animals that carry this parasite," he said.

T. cruzi is most often spread via a subspecies of blood-feeding insects called triatomines. These insects, commonly known as "kissing bugs" because they tend to bite people on the face and lips, feed and defecate on human skin. Triatomine feces containing the parasite are then rubbed into the bite when humans scratch the wound or when humans rub their eyes or mouth.

While kissing bugs are ultimately responsible for passing the disease on to humans, the bugs that live in people's homes don't normally carry the disease. The bugs become infected when they bite the family pet.

"Humans end up being incidental hosts for this parasite," Tarleton said. "It really circulates much better and at much higher levels in a lot of other animal species."

Dogs, cats, goats or any other animal living in or around homes are likely to become infected from kissing bugs living in shrubs, woods, kennels or barns. These animals then expose kissing bugs already nesting in homes to the T. cruzi parasite. Once the insects in a home carry the parasite, the chances of human infection increase significantly.

It is estimated there are 300,000 people in the U.S. infected with T. cruzi, and studies show a sizeable number of dogs, particularly in the southern U.S., are infected as well, according to Tarleton.

While most Americans do not live in houses where kissing bugs thrive, the bugs are commonplace in the southern U.S., and they are capable of spreading the disease to humans. Transmission of the disease to humans may also occur through blood transfusions and organ transplants.

Tarleton's vaccine uses a live parasite that has been genetically modified so that it is incapable of replicating inside the host.

"We have a parasite that can grow in the insect and can infect an animal, but when it goes inside a cell, it cannot replicate," Tarleton said. "As a result, the immune system controls that infection, but you also get induction of a nice, strong immune response, which is what you need a vaccine to do."

Successful implementation of this vaccine could improve the lives of millions of people in Central and South America, but it would also help prevent the spread of the disease here in the U.S.

Immunology has given us vaccines for humans that have effectively rid the U.S. of diseases like polio and small pox, but because T. cruzi affects so many animals, Tarleton is certain that it will always be with us.

While Tarleton is frustrated that the science does not exist to create a human vaccine, he is confident that using immunological techniques on animals will significantly reduce the number of human infections.


Contact: Rick Tarleton
University of Georgia

Related biology news :

1. AZTI-Tecnalia researches the use of vegetable by-products for animal feed
2. New tech removes air pollutants, may reduce energy use in animal ag facilities
3. A new method for testing allergenic substances without experimental animals
4. Archaeologists find new evidence of animals being introduced to prehistoric Caribbean
5. Mutants with heterozygote disadvantage can prevent spread of transgenic animals
6. New model more accurately describes migratory animals extinction risk
7. Animal study suggests that newborn period may be crucial time to prevent later diabetes
8. Progeria: Promising results from new gene therapy on animals
9. WSU researchers demonstrate rare animal model for studying depression
10. Poisonous oceans delayed animal evolution
11. Dont panic: The animals guide to hitchhiking
Post Your Comments:
(Date:5/24/2016)... , May 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing ...  3D medical LCD display is the latest premium product recently added to the range ... ... ... Sony 3d Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... , May 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, a ... the MegaMatcher Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) ... large-scale multi-biometric projects. MegaMatcher ABIS can process multiple ... using any combination of fingerprint, face or iris ... MegaMatcher SDK and MegaMatcher Accelerator , ...
(Date:4/19/2016)... The new GEZE SecuLogic access ... "all-in-one" system solution for all door components. It can ... door interface with integration authorization management system, and thus ... minimal dimensions of the access control and the optimum ... offer considerable freedom of design with regard to the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... A person commits a crime, and the detective ... the criminal down. An outbreak of foodborne illness ... (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the bacteria that ... It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a complex, cutting-edge ... illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome sequencing is ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome ... has secured $1 million in debt financing from Silicon ... ramp up automation and to advance its drug development ... its new facility. "SVB has been an ... beyond the services a traditional bank would provide," said ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016  Blueprint Bio, a company dedicated to ... medical community, has closed its Series A funding round, ... "We have received a commitment from Forentis ... need to meet our current goals," stated Matthew ... runway to complete validation on the current projects in ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Velocity Products, a division of ... and optimized exclusively for Okuma CNC machining centers at The International Manufacturing Technology ... among several companies with expertise in toolholding, cutting tools, machining dynamics and distribution, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: