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Tracing an elusive killer parasite in Peru
Date:9/27/2011

dying of cardiac disease in the areas with Chagas transmission compared to the rest of the country," Levy said. "What we've shown calls into question the assumption that the particular parasite that's circulating in Arequipa is somehow less virulent. We show that there's really nothing to back that assumption."

Epicenter Regression

The researchers used epicenter regression, which takes a statistical "snapshot" of disease infection in a particular population to track the history of how an infection takes hold and spreads. Epicenter regression considers the duration of an individual's exposure to infection as a function of distance from their home to an unknown site, or sites, where disease has been introduced, and combines that measure with other known risks to estimate the probability of infection. From this data, the course of infection can be traced backward to infer where and when a disease first struck a community.

Levy's team has been collecting data in Peru since 2004. "We do all the fieldwork, we gather all our data, which is very much door-to-door, old-fashioned epidemiology," said Levy. That involves both entering households to search for infected insects and collecting blood samples from residents. The team's survey work led to the observation of spatial clusters of parasites in insects such that "it looked like there were isolated clusters of transmission, or 'micro-epidemics.' It was really observation, then hypothesis, then testing."

According to their findings, the Chagas parasite was introduced into the region about twenty years ago, and most infections occurred over the last ten years. Spread of the disease is being disrupted in Arequipa through insecticide application, but up to 5 percent of the population was infected before their houses were sprayed with insecticide. Levy and his colleagues conclude that the lack of chronic disease symptoms among these infected individuals could be due to the relativel
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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