Use of Polymerase Chain Reaction to Diagnose the Fifth Reported US Case of Autochthonous Transmission of Trypanosoma Cruzi, in Tennessee, 1998

J Infect Dis. 2000 Jan;181(1):395-9. doi: 10.1086/315212.


In July 1998, the mother of an 18-month-old boy in rural Tennessee found a triatomine bug in his crib, which she saved because it resembled a bug shown on a television program about insects that prey on mammals. The gut contents of the Triatoma sanguisuga were found, by light microscopy and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), to be infected with Trypanosoma cruzi; PCR products hybridized with T. cruzi-specific oligonucleotide probes. Whole-blood specimens obtained from the child in July and August were negative by buffy-coat examination and hemoculture but positive by PCR and DNA hybridization, suggesting that he had low-level parasitemia. Specimens obtained after treatment with benznidazole were negative. He did not develop anti-T. cruzi antibody; 19 relatives and neighbors also were seronegative. Two of 3 raccoons trapped in the vicinity had positive hemocultures for T. cruzi. The child's case of T. cruzi infection-the fifth reported US autochthonous case-would have been missed without his mother's attentiveness and the availability of sensitive molecular techniques.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chagas Disease / diagnosis*
  • Chagas Disease / transmission
  • DNA, Protozoan / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insect Vectors / parasitology
  • Intestines / parasitology
  • Male
  • Parasitemia / diagnosis
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction*
  • Tennessee
  • Triatoma / parasitology*


  • DNA, Protozoan