When Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite responsible for Chagas disease, infects a person, some of its DNA is integrated into that of its host, according to Brazilian research published in Cell last week. This could help explain the how the disease is triggered.
The researchers analysed the DNA of 13 patients with Chagas disease and found DNA from T. cruzi in each patient. Chicken eggs infected with the parasite developed into adult birds with T. cruzi DNA among their own genetic material. When they bred these chickens, the researchers found their offspring also had detectable T. cruzi DNA.
Between 16 and 18 million people in Latin America are infected with T. cruzi. An estimated one-third of these infections result in chronic Chagas disease. It is not yet clear whether the integration of parasite and host DNA is involved in the in the pathology of Chagas disease.