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The World in Medicine
August 18, 2004

Genome-Invading Parasite

JAMA. 2004;292(7):794. doi:10.1001/jama.292.7.794-c

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.