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In Search of Congenital Chagas Disease in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

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  • 1 Centro de Investigación en Salud para el Trópico (CIST), Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, Santa Marta, Colombia;
  • | 2 Department of Pediatrics, Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas;
  • | 3 Department of Biology, Baylor University, Waco, Texas;
  • | 4 Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Colorado Denver, School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado;
  • | 5 Hospital Infantil de México, Federico Gómez, México City, México
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Chagas disease remains a major impediment to sustainable socioeconomic development in Latin America. Transplacental transmission explains the persistence of transmission in urban areas, in non-endemic regions, and in areas with an established interrupted vectorial transmission. One of every five cases of congenital Chagas disease in the world occurs in Colombia and Venezuela. The massive migration of impoverished populations from neighboring Venezuela has worsened the situation creating a humanitarian crisis in Northeastern Colombia, including the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The prevalence of Chagas infection among pregnant women in these areas is higher than the national average, and the public health resources are insufficient. This perspective discusses the associated increased morbidity and mortality of congenital Chagas in this region, where stigmatization contributes to the impression among health authorities and the general population that it affects indigenous communities only. The monitoring and control of congenital Chagas disease in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta is a public health necessity that demands urgent and effective interventions.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Gabriel Parra-Henao, Carretera Troncal del Caribe, Km 3 Sector Mamatoco, Santa Marta, Colombia. E-mail: gabriel.parrah@ucc.edu.co

Disclosure: P. J. H. has a patent WO2017160849A1 issued, and is the lead investigator and potentially a patent holder on a therapeutic vaccine against Chagas disease which is in development.

Financial support: A. F. H.-M. reports personal fees from Bayer and grants from Sanofi, outside the submitted work.

Authors’ addresses: Gabriel Parra-Henao and Horacio Oliveros, Centro de Investigación en Salud para el Trópico (CIST), Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, Santa Marta, Colombia, E-mails: gparrahenao@gmail.com and horacio_oliveros@hotmail.com. Peter J. Hotez, Faculty of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX, E-mail: hotez@bcm.edu. Gabriel Motoa, Carlos Franco-Paredes, and Andrés F. Henao-Martínez, Division of Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, CO, E-mails: gabrielmotoa@gmail.com, carlos.franco-paredes@ucdenver.edu, and andres.henaomartinez@ucdenver.edu.

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