June 2014 Issue



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Chagas disease, a condition caused by infection with the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, was first identified by the Brazilan epidemiologist Carlos Chagas and has always been a big problem for the countries of South America. The disease is prevalent in tropical and semi tropical areas and is endemic throughout much of Mexico, Central America, and South America where an estimated 8 million people are infected. T cruzi is transmitted to mammals by blood‑sucking triatomine insects (kissing bugs) and this insect vector becomes infected by feeding on infected animals. Alternating insect and mammalian hosts are required to complete the T. cruzi life cycle.

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Trypanosoma cruzi in blood smear

In the past Chagas disease was not considered to be a significant problem in the United States however Center for Disease Control now estimates that more than 300,000 persons with T. cruzi infection live in the United States. It has been assumed that most of these people were originally from countries of Central and South America and that they became infections prior to entering the US.

However, Chagas disease is becoming increasingly important to health care providers in the US as the disease is being diagnosed in areas north of its historical range, including significant numbers of cases in South Texas. Additionally, Chagas is known to infect over 100 mammalian species including most domestic animals and livestock. While livestock may be infected with T. cruzi, it has not been shown to have significant health impact in these animals. This allows infected but asymptomatic livestock to serve as a reservoir for T. cruzi infection for the insect vector. The primary wildlife reservoirs for T. cruzi in the United States include opossums, raccoons, squirrels, armadillos, rats and mice.

The parasite that causes Chagas disease is transmitted by triatomine bugs, more commonly called kissing bugs. Unlike many other types of vector-borne diseases, the bite of a kissing bug is not responsible by itself for transmission. When a kissing bug bites a person, dog, or other mammal, it tends to defecate at the same time. The bite causes the victim to scratch, which is likely to push the nearby feces and the parasites it contains into the small wound caused by the bite. Animals, including humans, can also become infected with T. cruzi by eating infected bugs or feces and the disease can be passed congenitally from a mother to her offspring.


A bloodsucking conenose bug or "kissing" bug, Triatoma sp. (Hemiptera: Reduviidae). Photo by Drees

In recent years the number of dogs diagnosed with Chagas disease has grown dramatically. The close proximity of dogs and humans make this animal an important reservoir for the spread of T. cruzi to humans. It is thought that monitoring the prevalence of T. cruzi in pets may be a good way to monitor the likelihood of human infections. The signs of Chagas disease in dogs vary with the duration of infection. Acutely infected dogs typically have a fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and an enlarged liver and/or spleen. This phase of the infection may go unnoticed particularly since the clinical signs tend to resolve as the dog enters the latent phase of the infection. During the latent infection, which may last for several years, the dog has essentially no apparent clinical symptoms. However, dogs with chronic infection can develop a type of heart disease that can result in congestive heart failure and sudden death.

Unfortunately, no medications have been found that effectively eradicate Chagas disease in dogs or other animals (including humans). Symptomatic treatment for heart disease can help dogs feel better and live longer than they would otherwise, but the underlying problem remains. Additionally there is no vaccine to prevent infection, so prevention is limited to practices that limit a dog's exposure to kissing bugs and other sources of infection with T. cruzi.

The Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences program at Texas A&M (Texas is a Chagas disease hotspot) makes the following recommendations:

- Prevent dogs from eating bugs

- House dogs indoors at night

- Prevent dogs from eating potentially infected animals (mice, rats, etc.)

- Test breeding females to prevent congenital transmission

They also state that "although direct transmission from dogs to humans has not been reported, infection in dogs indicates the local presence of infected vectors, which may present an increased risk of vector borne transmission to humans."

It is important to realize that any infected animal is a reservoir of infection for kissing bugs. The kissing bug that feeds on an infected animal this week could just as easily be taking a blood meal from a human next week.

Until we do the work to document the prevalence of T. cruzi in goats the significance of these animals in the spread of this disease is unknown but should not be overlooked.

Pan American Vet Labs is undertaking a study to document the prevalence of goats which test positive for T. cruzi. Using a PAVLAB developed blood test, we will test , at no charge, any goat in the Texas, Arizona, New Mexico or Louisiana. Samples must be collected between June 1, 2014 and August 31, 2014 and shipped to PAVL. Samples will be stored until the end of the study period and tested as a single large group.

Reports will be sent to each submitter after testing is completed. Data from this study will be summarized and published without the submitter’s identity being disclosed.

To submit samples for this study contact Bob Glass at bglass@pavlab.com for “T. cruzi Study” submission forms.

Bob Glass, Pan American Vet Lab in Hutto, Texas. bglass@pavlab.com June 2014

Bending Tree Ranch Giovanni, fullblood TexMaster™ buck is available for sale.

BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

2013 TexMaster and Myotonic (TMG™ prospects) buck and doe kids available.

Pat Cotten
Bending Tree Ranch
located near Greenbrier, Arkansas


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