"Developing World's Parasites, Disease Hit U.S."

"Parasitic infections and other diseases usually associated with the developing world are cropping up with alarming frequency among U.S. poor, especially in states along the U.S.-Mexico border, the rural South and in Appalachia, according to researchers.

Government and private researchers are just beginning to assess the toll of the infections, which are a significant cause of heart disease, seizures and congenital birth defects among black and Hispanic populations.

One obstacle is that the diseases, long thought to be an overseas problem, are only briefly discussed in most U.S. medical school classes and textbooks, so many physicians don't recognize them.

Some of the infections are transmitted by bug bites and some by animal feces contaminated with parasite larvae; still others are viral. All spread in conditions of overcrowding, malnutrition, poor sanitation and close contact with animals receiving little veterinary care.

'These are diseases that we know are ten-fold more important than swine flu,' said Peter Hotez, a microbiologist at George Washington University and leading researcher in this field. 'They're on no one's radar.'"

Stephanie Simon and Betsy McKay report for the Wall St. Journal August 22, 2009.

Monday, August 24, 2009