Global Health Affairs Lecture Series Kicks Off

The Regional Office of Global Health Affairs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) at El Paso is excited to kick off its lecture series on April 23, 2014 with a guest speaker who will discuss his vaccine for Chagas Disease. These global health lectures, in collaboration with the Office of Diversity Affairs and the Continuing Medical Education Office, are designated as part of the Dean’s Diversity and Global Health Seminar Series.

Alma Aranda, coordinator for the Office of Global Health (OGH), TTUHSC at El Paso, invites everyone to attend this ongoing lecture series related to global health issues and building healthy communities. Opportunities for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM will also be provided on various global health issues.  “Global health education is both a responsibility, as well as an opportunity, for the TTUHSC at El Paso campus,” said Aranda.

On April, 23, in recognition of World Immunization Week and its focus on vector-born diseases – UTEP biochemist and professor, Igor Almeida, Ph.D., will discuss a vaccine he developed against Chagas disease (also known as American trypanosomiasis), a parasitic disease caused by Trypanosoma cruzi which is transmitted mainly by the blood-sucking insect known as the “kissing bug.”

Dr. Almeida will discuss the history and main characteristics of the disease, the current efforts to stop human transmission, as well as his research on the development of the vaccine.

“The global health lecture series will provide an exciting opportunity to learn about global health issues from internationally distinguished people who care about world health such as Dr. Almeida,” said Aranda.

MORE ON CHAGAS DISEASE: Chagas disease is endemic throughout Latin America, though hundreds of cases have also been reported in Europe, the United States, Japan, and Australia. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are eight to 10 million cases worldwide and that the disease kills at least 10,000 to 12,000 people each year, making it the deadliest parasite in the Americas. Due to increases in population movements, Chagas disease can now be found in many areas within the United States, especially border states such as Texas, where an estimated 300,000 people are thought to be infected. In the United States, Chagas disease is considered one of the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – a group of five parasitic diseases that have been targeted by CDC for public health action.

In the early stages, symptoms are typically either not present or mild and may include: fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, and swelling at the site of the bite. Most individuals enter the chronic phase of the disease, and in 70 – 80 percent, it never produces further symptoms. The other 20 – 30 percent may develop complications, the most important being myocarditis, megacolon and/or megaesophagus. Mothers with Chagas disease can transmit Trypanosoma cruzi to their fetuses, who often become carriers of the infection and are then at risk of developing severe cardiac disease later in their lives.