The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has targeted 5 neglected parasitic infections (NPIs) in the United States as priorities for public health action, which include Chagas disease, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis, and trichomoniasis. These NPIs are discussed in a recent supplement to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Despite public opinion that these infections do not occur in the U.S., they can impact millions of individuals and can lead to seizures, blindness, pregnancy complications, heart failure, and death. The CDC reporting on these NPIs discusses the epidemiologic profiles, modes of transmission, and prevention and control strategies for each of these infections, as well as shared characteristics of the diseases. A lack of physician awareness, accurate diagnostics, and interventions to prevent or treat these diseases are some of the contributing factors for underreporting and misdiagnosing of NPIs.

The burden and impact of NPIs include:

  • Over 300,000 in the U.S. are infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease. More than 300 infected babies are born every year.
  • At least 1,000 hospitalizations for symptomatic cysticercosis occur each year in the U.S.
  • At least 14% of the U.S. population has been exposed to Toxocara, the parasite that causes toxocariasis, and each year at least 70 people (mainly children) are blinded due to resulting eye disease from the infection.
  • Over 60 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected with Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis; new infections in pregnant women can lead to birth defects. Infections in those with compromised immune systems can be fatal.
  • The Trichomonas parasite affects 3.7 million people in the U.S; while it is easily treatable, it can cause pregnancy problems and increase the risk of other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

RELATED: CDC: Chagas Disease May Be Overlooked in Newborns

The CDC’s efforts to educate and reduce the public health threat include:

  • Increasing awareness among physicians and the general public
  • Analyzing the existing data to help better understand these infections
  • Improving diagnostic testing
  • Advising on treatment, including distributing otherwise unavailable drugs for certain infections (Chagas disease)

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