Despite plummeting mortality rates for most infectious diseases over the last century, a group of largely overlooked bacterial, viral and parasitic infections is still plaguing the nation's poor, according to a report released this week.
Many of the diseases are typically associated with tropical developing countries but are surprisingly common in poor regions of the United States, according to the analysis, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
On its list of 24 "neglected infections of poverty" are schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection common in Africa; brucellosis, a bacterial infection from unsanitary dairy products; and dengue fever, a viral infection common in tropical Asia and South America.
Many of the diseases have become significant public health problems in the United States. In the Los Angeles area, a pork tapeworm infection called cysticercosis which spreads in crowded, unsanitary conditions, accounts for 10% of seizures resulting in emergency room visits, according to the report. Worm cysts in the brain cause the seizures and can lead to permanent epilepsy.
The 24 diseases afflict at least 300,000 Americans, and possibly millions, according to study author Dr. Peter Hotez, chairman of George Washington University's department of microbiology, immunology and tropical disease.
"These are right now below everybody's radar," Hotez said.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Third World America?
From the LA Times: