Postmortem Diagnosis of Autochthonous Acute Chagasic Myocarditis by Polymerase Chain Reaction Amplification of a Species-Specific DNA Sequence of Trypanosoma cruzi

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  • Division of Infectious Diseases and DNA Core Facility, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa, and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Department of Pathology, Driscoll Foundation Children's Hospital, Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Iowa City, Iowa

We report a fatal case of vector-transmitted acute Chagas' myocarditis in a seven-month-old child in south Texas. This diagnosis was not suspected during the three days of hospitalization that preceded the child's death, which was caused by heart failure. A diagnosis of acute myocarditis, probably of viral origin, was listed as the cause of death after cardiac tissue was examined microscopically at autopsy. One year after the death of the patient, a diagnosis of Trypanosoma cruzi myocarditis, based solely on morphologic grounds, was made after newly prepared slides of cardiac tissue were examined. Seven years later, we confirmed the diagnosis of T. cruzi infection by using the polymerase chain reaction to amplify a species-specific genomic repetitive DNA sequence of the parasite from fixed cardiac tissue.