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BACKGROUND: Screening US blood donors for Trypanosoma cruzi infection is identifying autochthonous, chronic infections. Two donors in Mississippi were identified through screening and investigated as probable domestically acquired vector-borne infections, and the US T. cruzi Infection Study was conducted to evaluate the burden of and describe putative risk factors for vector-borne infection in the United States.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Blood donors who tested enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay repeat reactive and positive by radioimmunoprecipitation assay, and whose mode of infection could not be identified, were evaluated with a questionnaire to identify possible sources of infection and by additional serologic and hemoculture testing for T. cruzi infection.

RESULTS: Of 54 eligible donors, 37 (69%) enrolled in the study. Fifteen (41%) enrollees had four or more positive serologic tests and were considered positive for T. cruzi infection; one was hemoculture positive. Of the 15, three (20%) donors had visited a rural area of an endemic country, although none had stayed for 2 or more weeks. All had lived in a state with documented T. cruzi vector(s) or infected mammalian reservoir(s), 13 (87%) reported outdoor leisure or work activities, and 11 (73%) reported seeing wild reservoir animals on their property.

CONCLUSION: This report adds 16 cases, including one from the Mississippi investigation, of chronic T. cruzi infection presumably acquired via vector-borne transmission in the United States to the previously reported seven cases. The estimated prevalence of autochthonous infections based on this study is 1 in 354,000 donors. Determining US foci of vector-borne transmission is needed to better assess risk for infection.