* Automated Prism system to test for dangerous parasite
* Disease most common in poor areas of Latin America
NEW YORK May 19 Abbott Laboratories Inc
(ABT.N) has received U.S. approval to market its diagnostic
test for a parasite spread by a bug that causes Chagas disease,
a potentially fatal condition found only in the Americas.
Abbott said its automated Prism diagnostic system, which
also tests for hepatitis, HIV and other retroviruses, will now
test for the parasite.
Chagas disease, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi,
is found mainly in rural areas of Latin America where poverty
is widespread, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates as many as 11 million
people in Mexico, Central America and South America have the
disease, and most of them don't know they are infected.
Infection is lifelong and can be life threatening, leading to
heart disease and heart failure.
In areas where the disease is endemic, the parasite is
usually carried by triatomine bugs. They hide in crevices in
the walls and roofs of houses and bite people's faces at night
-- and are therefore nicknamed "kissing bugs."
The parasite can also be spread by blood transfusions,
organ transplantation, consumption of uncooked food
contaminated by the bug, and from congenital transmission from
mother to baby. But it is not spread person to person like a
cold or the flu, or through casual contact.
Anti-parasite medications can successfully treat the
disease in its early acute phases, and can prevent or delay
symptoms during the chronic phase of the disease.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; editing by John Wallace)