RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Risk factors and primary prevention of congenital Chagas disease in a nonendemic country.

BACKGROUND: In this longitudinal cohort study we evaluated the congenital transmission of Chagas disease (CD) in a nonendemic area. The aim of this work was to analyze the predictive value of a Trypanosoma cruzi-positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) result in pregnant women for the diagnosis of vertical transmission and to evaluate the use of PCR as a tool for early detection of infection.

METHODS: The offspring of 59 seropositive pregnant mothers were followed up. The parasitological status of mothers was studied by PCR in a total of 64 pregnancies; 10 of these women had received treatment before pregnancy. Sixty-five infants (including a pair of twins) were monitored at 0, 6, 9, and 12 months of age by PCR and serology. In cases of congenital transmission, hemoculture and parasite lineage typing were performed.

RESULTS: Nine infants had acquired CD congenitally. This represents a transmission rate of 13.8% among seropositive mothers (9 infected newborns of 65 total live births). All infants were infected with T. cruzi discrete typing unit V strain. A statistically significant correlation was found between T. cruzi vertical transmission and a positive PCR result during pregnancy (31%; 9 infected newborns in 29 live births). No infected infants were detected among 10 mothers who were treated before they became pregnant, compared with 16.4% (9 of 55 live births) among untreated mothers.

CONCLUSIONS: PCR is a useful tool for the detection of congenital CD, and the treatment of infected women of childbearing age seems to be useful for preventing vertical transmission.

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