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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Edition
September 20, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 187
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Hosts for Chagas disease located in Costa Rica
By the University of California-Riverside press staff

Solitary weasel-like animals called tayra, or perico ligero in the Costa Rican dialect, might look pretty harmless, but some may actually be incubators for a parasite that causes Chagas disease, a chronic, debilitating condition that is spread by insects called kissing bugs and affects more than eight million people worldwide.

In a study published today in the journal “PeerJ,” researchers from the University of California, Riverside have identified several new hosts for parasite-spreading kissing bug species, including tayras, new world monkeys, sloths, porcupines, and coatis, which are the cousins of racoons and known as pizotes in Costa Rica. All of these animals dwell in Costa Rica as well as the rest of Central and South America.

The research is important because, despite its prevalence, relatively little is known about the transmission of Chagas disease, a deadly, incurable condition that is most common in Latin America.

“There are 152 species of kissing bug, but we don’t know much about most of them, including the animals they feed on that can act as reservoirs for the parasite. Overall, the existing data is piecemeal, scattered, and biased toward a handful of heavily studied and well-documented species, while little data exists for insects that are found in very secluded habitats,” said Christiane Weirauch, a professor of entomology in the university’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

The study not only increases knowledge of Chagas disease transmission in rural environments, but also provides the most comprehensive review of animal hosts of the kissing bugs that spread Chagas disease.

The research, led by Anna Georgieva, an undergraduate majoring in biology, and Eric Gordon, a graduate student researcher in Weirauch’s lab, will support efforts to control the disease, particularly in poor, rural populations in South America.

Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to animals and humans by members of the assassin bug subfamily called kissing bugs that feed on blood and are named for their tendency to bite people around the mouth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kissing bugs become infected with T. cruzi by biting an infected animal or person and, once infected, they pass T. cruzi parasites in their feces. When they bite a person and ingest blood, they defecate on them.

A person can become infected if bug feces enters their body through mucous membranes or skin lesions caused by the bite wound or scratching. Research also suggests that animals can become infected by eating other animals that harbor the parasite.

Although Chagas disease is common in rural areas, identifying new hosts among tree-dwelling, and sometimes nocturnal animals is a challenge. To sidestep this problem, the researchers identified new hosts by studying their blood, which they isolated straight from the guts of kissing bugs.

The sample included 64 kissing bug samples collected from Central and South America between 2005 and 2015 that were preserved in ethanol.
Chagas bug
Wikipedia photo     
Kissing bug.
Wikipedia photo      
Sloth in
Manuel Antonio.

Wikipedia photo             
Perico ligero.

Wikipedia photo           
Pizote, a cousin of raccoon.

University of California-Davis press staff             
Some Capuchin monkeys in Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio.

“Our modern approach using DNA allowed us to determine this wide variety of animal hosts without a bias towards ones that are already known, unlike some older detection methods” Georgieva said. DNA analyses of the ingested blood revealed host associations for 24 of the samples. Among the newly identified hosts was the perico, which has never before been named as a host for kissing bugs.

Gordon said the findings will help public health officials develop new methods to control Chagas disease. “Education and pesticide application around homes has helped reduce the impact of kissing bugs associated with homes and domestic animals, but now more and more cases of Chagas disease are driven by species most often associated with more rural hosts,” Gordon said.

“One important consideration in controlling Chagas disease in wild animals is the possibility of bioaccumulation of the parasite in certain carnivores near the top of the food chain. If a vaccine becomes available one day in the future, they are good candidates to target for immunization to halt the natural spread of the parasite and potentially help to eradicate the pathogen.”

Solis at the UN
Casa Presidencial photo      
Solís speaking at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday.
Solís addresses the U.N. General Assembly
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Equality for women, the defense of nature and a world without nuclear weapons were the three key themes of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís’ speech before the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday.

Solís has been in New York these past few days to sit in or chair various U.N. panels on these issues.

He is joined by Manuel González, the foreign minister, and his vice president Ana Helena Chacón, who herself is seeking a position within the United Nations on women’s rights after the elections in February.

The president chaired the High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment along with Ikea Switzerland CEO Simona Scarpaleggia, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial.

The final report by the panel was delivered to the United Nations as a guide for governments, businesses, academics and members of the civil society to design and implement public policies, initiatives, projects and programs.

On the environment, the president called on all countries to adopt more ambitious positions on environmental conservation.

He highlighted the leadership of Costa Rica and Chile in Latin America on its advances in access to information and participation and justice in environmental matters.

Costa Rica plans to achieve a 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 2012 as well as policies for wastewater sanitation and plastics removal.

In the area of peacemaking, Solís highlighted the progress in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons where 122 nations, most of whom never have had nuclear weapons.

“As an unarmed democracy resting its defense on international law, we are satisfied that in addition to prohibiting the development, production, manufacture, transfer, possession, storage, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons, the treaty explicitly prohibits the threat of use, which also makes illegal so-called security doctrines of nuclear deterrence," he told the assembly.

The statement comes at a unique point in current affairs with an increasingly antagonistic standoff between the United States and North Korea.

U.S. President Donald Trump referenced this in his speech before the General Assembly that same day.
Describing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man” on a suicide mission, Trump used his maiden address to warn the Pyongyang regime that its current course could lead to total destruction.

“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life,” Trump told a packed U.N. General Assembly hall.

“No nation, on Earth, has an interest in seeing this band of criminals armed itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” the president said.

Before he stepped away from the podium, Solís also spoke of strengthening actions toward agriculture programs since they constitute the primary income for 70 percent of world’s rural poor that also consist of 40 percent of the planet’s population. He also asked the U.N. to rethink the concept of per capita income as the measure to determine the progress of country and replacing it with a multi-dimensional approach such as access to healthcare and attention to environmental or social vulnerability.


16th anniversary edition

Costa Rica: Remarkable Tales from Our Super Vacation Spot

A.M. Costa Rica celebrates its 16th anniversary with a compilation of classic news reports geared to the needs of foreigners living here and those elsewhere with personal or business interests in this vacation paradise. Each seeks to tell something new or original about the vacation and retirement mecca. 

Read a sample and purchase the book HERE!

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