May 2, 2012 | Huffington Post

Sabin president Dr. Peter Hotez has contributed another article to the Huffington Post Global Motherhood Blog. Read the excerpt below, and go here for the full article.

For Expectant Mothers, Chagas Disease Is Cause for Concern

By Peter Hotez

So far this series has focused on health issues that impact women and children in Africa, but now I would like to turn your attention closer to home, where a little-known neglected disease puts millions of pregnant women and their unborn children at risk each year. Chagas disease -- a parasitic infection transmitted through an insect commonly known as the "kissing bug" -- is one of the most common infections among pregnant women in the Western Hemisphere. It can be found all over Latin American, from Mexico and Central America to Paraguay and Argentina. Cases of Chagas disease are now widely prevalent throughout south Texas and may be spreading to other areas of the U.S.

Chagas is caused by single-celled parasites known as trypanosomes that can live and multiply in the heart. It is most commonly transmitted through the bite of insects about the size of cockroaches that live in poor-quality dwellings characteristic of extreme poverty in the Americas. These kissing bugs feed on the blood of their victims at night and release a parasite into the bloodstream that can eventually make its way to the victim's heart, leading to heart disease and even death.