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Patients Infected with Chagas Disease Via Donor Organ

Fourth and fifth U.S. Chagas disease cases via donor organs reported in heart transplant patients

FRIDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Two new cases of Chagas disease surfaced in Los Angeles-area heart transplant patients in February 2006, prompting U.S. health officials to warn physicians to watch for the disease, according to a report in the July 28 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Only three previous cases of infection by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite via organ transplantation had been reported in the United States.

In February, a 64-year-old heart transplant patient tested positive for T. cruzi after being hospitalized with anorexia and fever. He rejected the transplanted heart and died in April. Authorities traced the infection to the donor, who had traveled to a region in Mexico where the disease is endemic.

A 73-year-old heart transplant patient was also hospitalized in February for fever, exhaustion and a rash. Despite having no known risk factors, he tested positive for T. cruzi. He died in June and his infection was traced to the organ donor, who was born in El Salvador.

"Physicians and laboratorians should maintain a high index of suspicion for T. cruzi infection in transplant and transfusion recipients," the CDC authors write. "Acute Chagas disease in severely immunocompromised patients is of special concern because the clinical course is often severe and rapidly progressive."

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