DNA from the Chagas disease parasite, Trypanosoma
cruzi, appears to be able to insert itself into the genome of its host,
according to a team of Brazilian scientists (Cell.
2004;118:175-186). If confirmed, the discovery may help explain why some patients
with Chagas disease develop a chronic illness, including damage to the heart
and other tissues.
The researchers detected T cruzi mitochondrial
DNA in the DNA of 13 patients with Chagas-related heart disease. They also
demonstrated that T cruzi can insert DNA into the
genome of rabbits and chickens, and that parasite DNA was present in the offspring
of chronically infected rabbits and chickens hatched from T cruzi-inoculated eggs.
Stephenson J. Genome-Invading Parasite. JAMA. 2004;292(7):794. doi:10.1001/jama.292.7.794-c