U.S. & Peru researchers find new disease species in jungle

Living in Peru
Israel J. Ruiz

Scientists studying a tropical disease in Peru’s Amazon have found new bacteria that is believed to be responsible for approximately 40 percent of the cases of leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis, also known as 7-day fever, is a bacterial disease with a high fatality rate that can cause jaundice, renal failure and lung hemorrhage in the most severe cases.

The emerging bacteria were uncovered by an infectious disease specialist from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, who is also working with colleagues from Peru’s Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima.

Joseph Vinetz, M.D., professor of medicine in UC San Diego’s Division of Infectious Diseases led the 5-year study in the city of Iquitos which has resulted in the discovery of the new species.

Leptospirosis is classified as a water-borne disease that is spread from animals to humans.

According to Science Daily, the disease is prevalent in tropical countries where poor people live under highly crowded condition, or in rural areas where people are exposed to water contaminated by the urine of Leptospira-infected animals such as rats.

The disease can kill as many as one in every four people that are infected with it.