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Heart damage tied to immune reaction

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10:27pm, July 22, 2002

Researchers in Brazil have identified immune proteins that flood the heart tissues of many people with Chagas' disease, suggesting a cause of this deadly complication of the parasitic tropical disease. The malady afflicts 18 million people in South and Central America, placing millions at risk of heart failure.

The researchers examined heart tissues from autopsies of 29 people who had Chagas' disease and signs of heart damage. The team also studied heart tissue from autopsies of 12 people without Chagas but who had enlarged hearts, biopsies of 6 people living with enlarged hearts, tissue from 21 people who died without heart problems, and biopsies from 21 people with normal-size hearts.

The researchers report in the June Journal of Pathology that 11 of the 29 Chagas patients had evidence of so-called membrane-attack-complex proteins in their heart cells, whereas only 1 of the 22 people who hadn't been infected with Chagas' disease had the immune proteins in hea

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