CDC: Awareness needed for neglected parasitic infections in US

The CDC has listed five parasitic infections as priorities for public health action in the United States, based on factors such as the number of people infected, the severity of the disease and the ability to prevent and treat them.

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH 

Thomas Frieden

The five neglected parasitic infections targeted are Chagas disease, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis and trichomoniasis, according to a CDC press release.

“Parasitic infections affect millions around the world, causing seizures, blindness, infertility, heart failure and even death,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said in the release. “They’re more common in the United States than people realize, and yet there is so much we don’t know about them. We need research to learn more about these infections and action to better prevent and treat them.”

CDC scientists outlined the five neglected parasitic infections in a recent supplement to The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, discussing their epidemiologic profiles, modes of transmission, and prevention and control methods. They also discuss the diseases’ shared characteristics: large numbers of people at risk in the United States, potential for underreporting due to lack of awareness and diagnostics, and the limited prevention and treatment options.

Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD 

Peter J. Hotez

Some of the statistics pertaining to neglected parasitic infections in the United States include:

  • More than 300,000 people are infected with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease;
  • Symptomatic cysticercosis results in at least 1,000 hospitalizations per year;
  • 14% of the population have been exposed to the parasite Toxocara, which causes toxocariasis, and 70 people each year are blinded by the resulting eye disease;
  • More than 60 million people are chronically infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis; and
  • The Trichomonas parasite affects 3.7 million people per year.

“The perception that parasitic disease are no longer relevant or important is a major impediment to implementing currently available control and prevention strategies,” Monica E. Parise, MD, and Laurence Slutsker, MD, MPH, of the CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Center for Global Health, and Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, of the National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, wrote in an accompanying editorial. “The neglected parasitic infections in the United States are part of the global burden of parasitic diseases, and strategies that reduce or eliminate them in the United States can someday be applied globally.”

Disclosure: Frieden, Hotez, Parise and Slutsker report no relevant financial disclosures.

The CDC has listed five parasitic infections as priorities for public health action in the United States, based on factors such as the number of people infected, the severity of the disease and the ability to prevent and treat them.

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH 

Thomas Frieden

The five neglected parasitic infections targeted are Chagas disease, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis and trichomoniasis, according to a CDC press release.

“Parasitic infections affect millions around the world, causing seizures, blindness, infertility, heart failure and even death,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said in the release. “They’re more common in the United States than people realize, and yet there is so much we don’t know about them. We need research to learn more about these infections and action to better prevent and treat them.”

CDC scientists outlined the five neglected parasitic infections in a recent supplement to The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, discussing their epidemiologic profiles, modes of transmission, and prevention and control methods. They also discuss the diseases’ shared characteristics: large numbers of people at risk in the United States, potential for underreporting due to lack of awareness and diagnostics, and the limited prevention and treatment options.

Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD 

Peter J. Hotez

Some of the statistics pertaining to neglected parasitic infections in the United States include:

  • More than 300,000 people are infected with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease;
  • Symptomatic cysticercosis results in at least 1,000 hospitalizations per year;
  • 14% of the population have been exposed to the parasite Toxocara, which causes toxocariasis, and 70 people each year are blinded by the resulting eye disease;
  • More than 60 million people are chronically infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis; and
  • The Trichomonas parasite affects 3.7 million people per year.

“The perception that parasitic disease are no longer relevant or important is a major impediment to implementing currently available control and prevention strategies,” Monica E. Parise, MD, and Laurence Slutsker, MD, MPH, of the CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Center for Global Health, and Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, of the National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, wrote in an accompanying editorial. “The neglected parasitic infections in the United States are part of the global burden of parasitic diseases, and strategies that reduce or eliminate them in the United States can someday be applied globally.”

Disclosure: Frieden, Hotez, Parise and Slutsker report no relevant financial disclosures.