FRIDAY, May 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental vaccine provides mice with long-lasting protection against Chagas disease, which can lead to death from heart and intestinal complications in people, researchers report.
Chagas disease is widespread in most Latin America countries and is an emerging disease in the United States. A parasite called T. cruzi causes the infection.
There are no vaccines or treatments for Chagas disease, which is transmitted by triatomine bugs, often called "kissing bugs."
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston analyzed the T. cruzi genome and identified three proteins that showed strong potential for vaccine development.
"The proteins become antigens once the body mounts an immune response that creates antibodies," Shivali Gupta, postdoctoral fellow in the department of microbiology and immunology, said in a university news release.
"We found that vaccinating mice with these antigens just prior to infecting them with T. cruzi kept the parasite levels down and staved off the signs of Chagas disease seen in the unvaccinated mice," Gupta added.
The mice were infected with the parasite four to six months after vaccination. Some of them also received booster shots.
It's not known, however, whether the results would be replicated in humans because animal-based research often fails to produce similar results in people.
The study was published May 7 in the journal PLoS Pathogens.
Between 11 million and 18 million people are infected worldwide with Chagas disease, and about 50,000 die each year from it. Nineteen cases of Chagas were reported in Texas in 2013, most in the Houston area, according to the news release.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Chagas disease.