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Contact: Johanna Harvey
johanna.harvey@sabin.org
202-621-1691
Sabin Vaccine Institute

New study highlights Chagas disease as a growing health and socio-economic challenge

The disease's economic burden meets or exceeds that of rotavirus, Lyme disease and cervical cancer

WASHINGON, D.C.—February 7, 2013—Today, The Lancet Infectious Diseases published a new report that examines the global economic burden of Chagas disease. In the first study of its kind, researchers measured the health and economic impact of Chagas disease and found that the total economic burden of Chagas disease matches or exceeds that of many more well-known diseases such as rotavirus, Lyme disease and cervical cancer.

Chagas disease infects an estimated 10 million people worldwide, with most cases occurring in Latin America. It is a parasitic infection transmitted through an insect commonly known as the "kissing bug." Its symptoms range from acute respiratory and intestinal infections to strokes, liver and heart disease. In some cases Chagas disease can be fatal.

The poorest countries in the region are especially impacted by this neglected tropical disease (NTD) because of the insect's propensity to live in impoverished communities that lack quality housing, access to essential medicines and vector control practices. However the new study found that while the burden is considerable in Latin America, it is also significant in parts of the world not traditionally considered risk areas for Chagas disease, such as in North America and Europe.

The study estimates that the global economic cost of Chagas disease exceeds USD $7 billion annually. This cost surpasses that of rotavirus ($2 billion) and cervical cancer ($4.7 billion). Even in the United States, the economic burden of Chagas disease is comparable to the burden of much more publicized infectious diseases such as Lyme disease. According to the study, currently infected individuals will result in more future health care costs occurring in the United States (approximately $6.7 billion) than any other country.

"Lost productivity is a big part of the cost," said the study's lead author, Dr. Bruce Lee. "By just focusing on health care costs, or simple measures such as death caused by the disease, we miss a lot of the burden. We must examine the crucial impact lost productivity can have on society, businesses, governments and other key stakeholders."

Quantifying the economic burden of Chagas disease can help guide public health policy decisions, according to the study's co-author, Dr. Peter Hotez.

"We now have more evidence that Chagas disease is more than just a burden on human health in some of the poorest countries. All around the world, Chagas disease has a huge economic impact," said Dr. Hotez. "This new data should help inform policy decisions that will prioritize Chagas disease on research, policy and development agendas. This should include support for developing new vaccines for Chagas disease."

The Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP), in collaboration with Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine and other PDP partners, is currently engaged in early research and development for a bivalent therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of chronic Chagas disease. If successful, it would be the first therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of this disease.

"Further studies quantifying Chagas disease-related costs on a regional or country level will help policymakers and other decision makers establish necessary control measures," added Dr. Hotez.

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This paper was authored by Dr. Bruce Lee, associate professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics and director of the Public Health Computational and Operations Research (PHICOR) group, at the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and the fellow in Disease and Poverty at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

The study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (grant number 5U54GM088491-02).

The full paper is available on TheLancet.com and Sabin.org.

About Sabin Vaccine Institute

Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world's most pervasive health challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat and eliminate these diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating use of existing vaccines and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information please visit www.sabin.org.

About The Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP)

The Sabin PDP is focused on developing vaccines targeting neglected tropical diseases and the world's first and only vaccine initiative targeting human hookworm infection. This product development partnership (PDP) engages partners in academia, industry, government and civil society to fill an important market gap by collaborating with world class research and development institutions to create ultra low-cost vaccines for poor and underserved populations. PDP members include Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, the George Washington University, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) (Brazil), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK), the James Cook University (Australia), Birmex (Mexico), Cinvestav (Mexico), and Autonomous University of Yucatan (Mexico).

About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998. In rankings recently released by the National Science Foundation, Pitt ranked fifth among all American universities in total federal science and engineering research and development support.

Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region's economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see www.medschool.pitt.edu.



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