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Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Thursday, 14 February 2013
in Earth Blog

Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease

Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day! No better day than today to discuss Chagas disease: the potentially deadly this-is-what-causes-chagas-disease-Trypanosoma cruzi crithidiatropical infection caused by "kissing bugs!"

Last spring officials were keeping an eye on the treatable but not curable disease.

A study warned that warmer temperatures (caused by climate change) could drive the bug northwards from its current habitat in the country’s lower two thirds and the rate of Chagas would rise.

Researchers took a sampling of bugs from Arizona and California and found 38 percent of the bugs had human blood. Then they tested for the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi that causes Chagas and more than 50 percent of the bugs were found to be carriers.  Last March there were only seven documented cases of the disease in the United States and a Chagas expert said the transmission rate was “very low.”  

In Latin America about 8 million people have been infected by T. cruzi. The parasite is not just transmitted by the bug when it takes a blood meal from a human and leaves behind infected feces it can also be transmitted through contaminated food and drink, through blood, and from mother to child.

Current treatment for Chagas disease focuses on killing the parasite and then managing the symptoms. During the acute phase this means the use of prescription medications that can only be distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here in the U.S.

During the chronic phase, that affects the heart and gastrointestinal tract, medications are no longer effective and Mayoclinic.com says depending on the patient’s symptoms there are two courses of action:

“Heart-related complications. Treatment may include medications, a pacemaker or other devices to regulate your heart rhythm, surgery, or even a heart transplant.

Digestive-related complications. Treatment may include diet modification, medications, corticosteroids or, in severe cases, surgery.”

Naturally, researchers are seeking a cure for Chagas and a team from Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College published a study that says they have cured Chagas in mice with a molecule called VNI.

VNI “specifically inhibits a T. cruzi enzyme essential for cell multiplication and integrity” which I think is the fancy way of saying VNI is an assassin that kills the enzyme dead. These results mean scientists are closer to finding a cure or safer treatment for humans.

Researchers reported that VNI cures with a 100 percent survival rate in both acute and chronic cases of infection in mice when administered orally at 25 mg/kg for 30 days.  More importantly VNI has no toxic side effects unlike this post which I hope has turned you off from kissing for at least 30 days if not more.

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Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio. Samina and her husband believe that sustainability starts in the home and try to live their lives as simply as possible without compromising comfort.

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1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.

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1945: Delivered to US Army.

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1950: Acquired by the US Navy on July 1, 1950 and placed in service as USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1954: The movie, Mister Roberts, was made on the USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.

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1963: Reclassified as Miscellaneous Unclassified (IX-308).

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1971: The New Bedford (IX-308) served as a Torpedo Test Firing Vessel in the Puget Sound area.

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1994: Ceremony in New Bedford.

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1995: The ship was struck from the Naval Register on April 4.

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2004: The Sea Bird's current disposition is a tuna long liner (fishing boat) out of San Diego, CA.

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2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.

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2007: The Sea Bird was drydocked for renovations.

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2008: The Sea Bird setting sail to Sea-Tac in Seattle, WA.

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2009 - 2010: The Sea Bird is currently docked at Seattle Sea-Tac.

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