Volume 59, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Chagas' disease is caused by the hemoflagellate protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. The most common, serious manifestation of Chagas' disease is a progressive inflammatory cardiomyopathy, which occurs decades after primary infection. The inability to consistently demonstrate T. cruzi by histologic techniques in inflammatory cardiac lesions has suggested that the parasites' persistence may not be required for the pathology of the chronic phase. In this report we further analyze the persistence and localization of T. cruzi DNA in the hearts of seven patients with chronic chagasic cardiomyopathy, along with four indeterminate patients and seven control patients seronegative for T. cruzi infection. In the seven patients with chronic chagasic cardiomyopathy, we extracted DNA from selected inflammatory foci-positive (IFP) and inflammatory foci-negative (IFN) areas of' hematoxylin and eosin-stained cardiac tissue. We then used polymerase chain reaction methodology to amplify three different T. cruzi sequences (a minicircle sequence [MCS], a satellite repetitive sequence [RS], and, a low copy number sequence within the gene coding for a flagellar protein [FPS]). The MCS was detected in approximately 100% of both the IFP and IFN areas analyzed. The RS was detected in 37.5% and 23% of the IFP and IFN areas, respectively (difference not statistically significant; P > 0.10, degrees of freedom = 1, G test of independence = 1.9522). The FPS was rarely detected (2%), and was only present in DNA extracted from IFP areas. The MCS was also detected in most indeterminate cases (none of whom had inflammatory lesions) although with a markedly diminished amplification signal relative to cardiomyopathy cases. The MCS was not amplified from the cardiac tissues from seronegative controls. These results suggest that the quantity of T. cruzi DNA persisting in hearts of patients with Chagas' disease correlates with cardiomyopathy, but may not be preferentially associated with inflammatory foci.


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