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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Health risks of dogs in bedroom
Dogs  can pass the disease on to humans
Dogs can pass the disease on to humans
Keeping dogs out of the bedroom could reduce the risk of a deadly disease for people in Central and South America.

The deadly Chagas disease is a parasitic infection.

Around 25% of the population in rural areas are in danger of contracting the disease.

But research in the journal Science suggests keeping animals outside, and spraying insecticide could lower the number of infections.

It is estimated that 16 - 18m people are affected by Chagas disease in Central and South America.

The World Health Organization estimates another 100m are at risk of contracting the illness.

There is no vaccine, and treatment often fails to cure the disease.

Transmission

The parasite is transmitted by blood-feeding insects.

Initially, it feeds on animals like chickens, and then it infects dogs and finally moves on to people.

A study carried out by scientists in the United States and Argentina shows that keeping animals away from humans can nearly wipe out the infection.

In villages, animals like chickens are kept indoors to stop them being stolen or killed by predators.

But this allows the parasite to increase its numbers, putting the people living in the houses at great risk.

The scientists found that keeping dogs outside would almost stop the spread of the infection.

They propose that by combining their recommendations with insecticide spraying and other prevention programmes, cases of Chagas disease in countries from Mexico to Argentina could become far fewer.

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