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1.  Agreement between QuantiFERON®-TB Gold In-Tube and the tuberculin skin test and predictors of positive test results in Warao Amerindian pediatric tuberculosis contacts 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:383.
Interferon-gamma release assays have emerged as a more specific alternative to the tuberculin skin test (TST) for detection of tuberculosis (TB) infection, especially in Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccinated people. We determined the prevalence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection by TST and QuantiFERON®-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT-GIT) and assessed agreement between the two test methods and factors associated with positivity in either test in Warao Amerindian children in Venezuela. Furthermore, progression to active TB disease was evaluated for up to 12 months.
163 HIV-negative childhood household contacts under 16 years of age were enrolled for TST, QFT-GIT and chest X-ray (CXR). Follow-up was performed at six and 12 months. Factors associated with TST and QFT-GIT positivity were studied using generalized estimation equations logistic regression models.
At baseline, the proportion of TST positive children was similar to the proportion of children with a positive QFT-GIT (47% vs. 42%, p = 0.12). Overall concordance between QFT-GIT and TST was substantial (kappa 0.76, 95% CI 0.46-1.06). Previous BCG vaccination was not associated with significantly increased positivity in either test (OR 0.68, 95% CI 0.32-1.5 for TST and OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.14-1.9 for QFT-GIT). Eleven children were diagnosed with active TB at baseline. QFT-GIT had a higher sensitivity for active TB (88%, 95% CI 47-98%) than TST (55%, 95% CI 24-83%) while specificities were similar (respectively 58% and 55%). Five initially asymptomatic childhood contacts progressed to active TB disease during follow-up.
Replacement of TST by the QFT-GIT for detection of M. tuberculosis infection is not recommended in this resource-constrained setting as test results showed substantial concordance and TST positivity was not affected by previous BCG vaccination. The QFT-GIT had a higher sensitivity than the TST for the detection of TB disease. However, the value of the QFT-GIT as an adjunct in diagnosing TB disease is limited by a high variability in QFT-GIT results over time.
PMCID: PMC4227090  PMID: 25012075
Tuberculosis; Indigenous children; Diagnostics; Child tuberculosis contacts
2.  Recurrent wheezing is associated with intestinal protozoan infections in Warao Amerindian children in Venezuela: a cross-sectional survey 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:293.
While in developed countries the prevalence of allergic diseases is rising, inflammatory diseases are relatively uncommon in rural developing areas. High prevalence rates of helminth and protozoan infections are commonly found in children living in rural settings and several studies suggest an inverse association between helminth infections and allergies. No studies investigating the relationship between parasitic infections and atopic diseases in rural children of developing countries under the age of 2 years have been published so far. We performed a cross-sectional survey to investigate the association of helminth and protozoan infections and malnutrition with recurrent wheezing and atopic eczema in Warao Amerindian children in Venezuela.
From August to November 2012, 229 children aged 0 to 2 years residing in the Orinoco Delta in Venezuela were enrolled. Data were collected through standardized questionnaires and physical examination, including inspection of the skin and anthropometric measurements. A stool sample was requested from all participants and detection of different parasites was performed using microscopy and real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
We observed high prevalence rates of atopic eczema and recurrent wheezing, respectively 19% and 23%. The prevalence of helminth infections was 26% and the prevalence of protozoan infections was 59%. Atopic eczema and recurrent wheezing were more frequently observed in stunted compared with non-stunted children in multivariable analysis (OR 4.3, 95% CI 1.3 – 13.6, p = 0.015 and OR 4.5, 95% CI 0.97 – 21.2, p = 0.055). Furthermore, recurrent wheezing was significantly more often observed in children with protozoan infections than in children without protozoan infections (OR 6.7, 95% CI 1.5 – 30.5).
High prevalence rates of atopic eczema and recurrent wheezing in Warao Amerindian children under 2 years of age were related to stunting and intestinal protozoan infections respectively. Helminth infections were not significantly associated with either atopic eczema or recurrent wheezing.
PMCID: PMC4045948  PMID: 24885094
Atopic eczema; Helminth; Indigenous children; Malnutrition; Protozoa; Recurrent wheezing
3.  Low Child Survival Index in a Multi-Dimensionally Poor Amerindian Population in Venezuela 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e85638.
Warao Amerindians, who inhabit the Orinoco Delta, are the second largest indigenous group in Venezuela.  High Warao general mortality rates were mentioned in a limited study 21 years ago. However, there have been no comprehensive studies addressing child survival across the entire population.
To determine the Child Survival-Index (CSI) (ratio: still-living children/total-live births) in the Warao population, the principal causes of childhood death and the socio-demographic factors associated with childhood deaths.
We conducted a cross-sectional epidemiological survey of 688 women from 97 communities in 7 different subregions of the Orinoco Delta. Data collected included socio-demographic characteristics and the reproductive history of each woman surveyed. The multidimensional poverty index (MPI) was used to classify the households as deprived across the three dimensions of the Human Development Index. Multivariable linear regression and Generalized Linear Model Procedures were used to identify socioeconomic and environmental characteristics statistically associated with the CSI.
The average CSI was 73.8% ±26. The two most common causes of death were gastroenteritis/diarrhea (63%) and acute respiratory tract Infection/pneumonia (18%).  Deaths in children under five years accounted for 97.3% of childhood deaths, with 54% occurring in the neonatal period or first year of life.  Most of the women (95.5%) were classified as multidimensionally poor.  The general MPI in the sample was 0.56.   CSI was negatively correlated with MPI, maternal age, residence in a traditional dwelling and profession of the head of household other than nurse or teacher.
The Warao have a low CSI which is correlated with MPI and maternal age.  Infectious diseases are responsible for 85% of childhood deaths.  The low socioeconomic development, lack of infrastructure and geographic and cultural isolation suggest that an integrated approach is urgently needed to improve the child survival and overall health of the Warao Amerindians. 
PMCID: PMC3877389  PMID: 24392022
4.  High Malnutrition Rate in Venezuelan Yanomami Compared to Warao Amerindians and Creoles: Significant Associations WITH Intestinal Parasites and Anemia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77581.
Children in rural areas experience the interrelated problems of poor growth, anemia and parasitic infections. We investigated the prevalence of and associations between intestinal helminth and protozoan infections, malnutrition and anemia in school-age Venezuelan children.
This cross-sectional study was conducted in 390 children aged 4-16 years from three rural areas of Venezuela: the Amazon Region, Orinoco Delta and Carabobo State. Stool samples were collected for direct parasitic examinations. Anthropometric indicators of chronic (height-for-age Z score) and acute (weight-for-height and Body Mass Index (BMI)-for-age Z score in respectively children under 5 years of age and children aged 5 years and above) malnutrition were calculated. Multivariate linear and logistic regression models were built to determine factors associated with nutritional status and polyparasitism.
Hookworm and Strongyloides stercoralis prevalences were highest in children from the Amazon rainforest (respectively 72% and 18%) while children from the Orinoco Delta and Carabobo State showed higher rates of Ascaris lumbricoides (respectively 28% and 37%) and Trichuris trichiura (40% in both regions). The prevalence of Giardia lamblia infection was not significantly different between regions (average: 18%). Anemia prevalence was highest in the Amazon Region (24%). Hemoglobin levels were significantly decreased in children with a hookworm infection. Malnutrition was present in respectively 84%, 30% and 13% of children from the Amazon Region, Orinoco Delta and Carabobo State. In multivariate analysis including all regions, G. lamblia and helminth infections were significantly and negatively associated with respectively height-for-age and weight-for-height/BMI-for-age Z scores. Furthermore, hemoglobin levels were positively associated with the height-for-age Z score (0.11, 95% CI 0.02 - 0.20).
In rural populations in Venezuela helminthiasis and giardiasis were associated with acute and chronic nutritional status respectively. These data highlight the need for an integrated approach to control transmission of parasites and improve the health status of rural Venezuelan children.
PMCID: PMC3797096  PMID: 24143243
5.  High prevalence of asthma symptoms in Warao Amerindian children in Venezuela is significantly associated with open-fire cooking: a cross-sectional observational study 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):76.
The International Study on Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) reported a prevalence of asthma symptoms in 17 centers in nine Latin American countries that was similar to prevalence rates reported in non-tropical countries. It has been proposed that the continuous exposure to infectious diseases in rural populations residing in tropical areas leads to a relatively low prevalence of asthma symptoms. As almost a quarter of Latin American people live in rural tropical areas, the encountered high prevalence of asthma symptoms is remarkable. Wood smoke exposure and environmental tobacco smoke have been identified as possible risk factors for having asthma symptoms.
We performed a cross-sectional observational study from June 1, 2012 to September 30, 2012 in which we interviewed parents and guardians of Warao Amerindian children from Venezuela. Asthma symptoms were defined according to the ISAAC definition as self-reported wheezing in the last 12 months. The associations between wood smoke exposure and environmental tobacco smoke and the prevalence of asthma symptoms were calculated by means of univariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses.
We included 630 children between two and ten years of age. Asthma symptoms were recorded in 164 of these children (26%). The prevalence of asthma symptoms was associated with the cooking method. Children exposed to the smoke produced by cooking on open wood fires were at higher risk of having asthma symptoms compared to children exposed to cooking with gas (AOR 2.12, 95% CI 1.18 - 3.84). Four percent of the children lived in a household where more than ten cigarettes were smoked per day and they had a higher risk of having asthma symptoms compared to children who were not exposed to cigarette smoke (AOR 2.69, 95% CI 1.11 - 6.48).
Our findings suggest that children living in rural settings in a household where wood is used for cooking or where more than ten cigarettes are smoked daily have a higher risk of having asthma symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3723947  PMID: 23870058
Asthma[Mesh]; Wheeze; Woodsmoke; Tobacco smoke pollution[Mesh]; Smoke[Mesh]; Indigenous children
6.  A predictive signature gene set for discriminating active from latent tuberculosis in Warao Amerindian children 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:74.
Tuberculosis (TB) continues to cause a high toll of disease and death among children worldwide. The diagnosis of childhood TB is challenged by the paucibacillary nature of the disease and the difficulties in obtaining specimens. Whereas scientific and clinical research efforts to develop novel diagnostic tools have focused on TB in adults, childhood TB has been relatively neglected. Blood transcriptional profiling has improved our understanding of disease pathogenesis of adult TB and may offer future leads for diagnosis and treatment. No studies applying gene expression profiling of children with TB have been published so far.
We identified a 116-gene signature set that showed an average prediction error of 11% for TB vs. latent TB infection (LTBI) and for TB vs. LTBI vs. healthy controls (HC) in our dataset. A minimal gene set of only 9 genes showed the same prediction error of 11% for TB vs. LTBI in our dataset. Furthermore, this minimal set showed a significant discriminatory value for TB vs. LTBI for all previously published adult studies using whole blood gene expression, with average prediction errors between 17% and 23%. In order to identify a robust representative gene set that would perform well in populations of different genetic backgrounds, we selected ten genes that were highly discriminative between TB, LTBI and HC in all literature datasets as well as in our dataset. Functional annotation of these genes highlights a possible role for genes involved in calcium signaling and calcium metabolism as biomarkers for active TB. These ten genes were validated by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction in an additional cohort of 54 Warao Amerindian children with LTBI, HC and non-TB pneumonia. Decision tree analysis indicated that five of the ten genes were sufficient to classify 78% of the TB cases correctly with no LTBI subjects wrongly classified as TB (100% specificity).
Our data justify the further exploration of our signature set as biomarkers for potential childhood TB diagnosis. We show that, as the identification of different biomarkers in ethnically distinct cohorts is apparent, it is important to cross-validate newly identified markers in all available cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3600014  PMID: 23375113
Biomarker; Children; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Transcriptomics
7.  Evidence of at Least Two Introductions of HIV-1 in the Amerindian Warao Population from Venezuela 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40626.
The Venezuelan Amerindians were, until recently, free of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. However, in 2007, HIV-1 infection was detected for the first time in the Warao Amerindian population living in the Eastern part of Venezuela, in the delta of the Orinoco river. The aim of this study was to analyze the genetic diversity of the HIV-1 circulating in this population.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The pol genomic region was sequenced for 16 HIV-1 isolates and for some of them, sequences from env, vif and nef genomic regions were obtained. All HIV-1 isolates were classified as subtype B, with exception of one that was classified as subtype C. The 15 subtype B isolates exhibited a high degree of genetic similarity and formed a highly supported monophyletic cluster in each genomic region analyzed. Evolutionary analyses of the pol genomic region indicated that the date of the most recent common ancestor of the Waraos subtype B clade dates back to the late 1990s.
At least two independent introductions of HIV-1 have occurred in the Warao Amerindians from Venezuela. The HIV-1 subtype B was successfully established and got disseminated in the community, while no evidence of local dissemination of the HIV-1 subtype C was detected in this study. These results warrant further surveys to evaluate the burden of this disease, which can be particularly devastating in this Amerindian population, with a high prevalence of tuberculosis, hepatitis B, among other infectious diseases, and with limited access to primary health care.
PMCID: PMC3395626  PMID: 22808212
8.  The use of quaternary ammonium disinfectants selects for persisters at high frequency from some species of non-tuberculous mycobacteria and may be associated with outbreaks of soft tissue infections 
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy  2010;65(12):2574-2581.
Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are increasingly important as opportunistic infections after major and minor surgical procedures, likely because they are ubiquitous and not effectively killed by many commonly used disinfectants. Outbreaks of soft tissue infections with NTM appeared related to the use of commercial disinfectants based on quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs).
We studied the survival of clinical and environmental isolates of Mycobacterium abscessus, Mycobacterium massiliense, Mycobacterium chelonae and Mycobacterium fortuitum after 20 min, 60 min or 24 h exposures to different QACs, and the surviving bacteria were then re-exposed to QACs to see if the percentage of surviving bacteria had increased. The bacteria were labelled with a dnaA–gfp fusion and their level of QAC resistance monitored as increasing fluorescence. The QAC-resistant bacteria were then serially restreaked onto non-selective medium and retested for QAC survival.
The frequency of survivors was <1 in 105 bacteria with Mycobacterium smegmatis, but >1 in 100 with the other mycobacteria studied. Different environmental and clinical isolates had similar QAC MICs, but QAC survivors of each strain were resistant. The QAC-surviving strains reverted to the original, non-resistant phenotype after several passages on non-selective medium.
QACs should not be used in settings where even minimally invasive procedures are performed, as they select for a non-genetically determined reversible resistant phenotype that appears at high frequency with several rapidly growing mycobacterial species associated with healthcare-related infections. M. smegmatis behaves differently and is not an adequate model for testing the activity of disinfectants against NTM.
PMCID: PMC2976628  PMID: 20926395
quaternary ammonium compounds; disinfectants; NTM; resistance; tolerance; persistence
9.  Use of anabolic-androgenic steroids masking the diagnosis of pleural tuberculosis: a case report 
Tuberculous pleural effusions are not always easy to diagnose but the presence of a lymphocyte-rich exudate associated with an increased adenosine deaminase level and a positive skin test result are highly sensitive diagnostic signs.
Case presentation
We report a case of pleural tuberculosis in a 31-year-old white male patient from Caracas, Venezuela who was negative for human immunodeficiency virus and presented 2 weeks after injecting the anabolic-androgenic steroid nandrolone decanoate, in whom all the tests for tuberculosis were initially negative; an eosinophilic pleural effusion with a low adenosine deaminase level, a negative tuberculin skin test and negative for acid-fast bacilli staining and culture of the pleural fluid. After excluding other causes of eosinophilic pleural effusion malignant pleural effusion was suspected. The patient did not return until 4 months later. The second thoracentesis obtained a pleural fluid suggestive for tuberculosis, with a predominance of lymphocytes, an elevated adenosine deaminase level (51 U/l) and a positive tuberculin skin test. Culture of pleural fragments confirmed pleural tuberculosis.
This case suggests that the use of an anabolic-androgenic steroid masks the definitive diagnosis of pleural tuberculosis by changing the key diagnostic parameters of the pleural fluid, a finding not previously reported. Available evidence of the effects of anabolic steroids on the immune system also suggests that patients using anabolic-androgenic steroids might be susceptible to developing tuberculosis in either reactivating a latent infection or facilitating development of the disease after a recent infection.
PMCID: PMC2644317  PMID: 19175931
10.  Mycobacterium cosmeticum, Ohio and Venezuela 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2007;13(8):1267-1269.
PMCID: PMC2828072  PMID: 17953114
Mycobacterium cosmeticum; catheter infection; rapidly growing mycobacteria; letter
11.  Iatrogenic Mycobacterium simiae Skin Infection in an Immunocompetent Patient 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2004;10(5):969-970.
PMCID: PMC3323202  PMID: 15216858
Skin infection; mesotherapy; intradermal injection; Mycobacterium simiae; nontuberculous mycobacteria
12.  Snapshot of Moving and Expanding Clones of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Their Global Distribution Assessed by Spoligotyping in an International Study†  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(5):1963-1970.
The present update on the global distribution of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex spoligotypes provides both the octal and binary descriptions of the spoligotypes for M. tuberculosis complex, including Mycobacterium bovis, from >90 countries (13,008 patterns grouped into 813 shared types containing 11,708 isolates and 1,300 orphan patterns). A number of potential indices were developed to summarize the information on the biogeographical specificity of a given shared type, as well as its geographical spreading (matching code and spreading index, respectively). To facilitate the analysis of hundreds of spoligotypes each made up of a binary succession of 43 bits of information, a number of major and minor visual rules were also defined. A total of six major rules (A to F) with the precise description of the extra missing spacers (minor rules) were used to define 36 major clades (or families) of M. tuberculosis. Some major clades identified were the East African-Indian (EAI) clade, the Beijing clade, the Haarlem clade, the Latin American and Mediterranean (LAM) clade, the Central Asian (CAS) clade, a European clade of IS6110 low banders (X; highly prevalent in the United States and United Kingdom), and a widespread yet poorly defined clade (T). When the visual rules defined above were used for an automated labeling of the 813 shared types to define nine superfamilies of strains (Mycobacterium africanum, Beijing, M. bovis, EAI, CAS, T, Haarlem, X, and LAM), 96.9% of the shared types received a label, showing the potential for automated labeling of M. tuberculosis families in well-defined phylogeographical families. Intercontinental matches of shared types among eight continents and subcontinents (Africa, North America, Central America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, and the Far East) are analyzed and discussed.
PMCID: PMC154710  PMID: 12734235
13.  Global Distribution of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Spoligotypes 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2002;8(11):1347-1349.
We present a short summary of recent observations on the global distribution of the major clades of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, the causative agent of tuberculosis. This global distribution was defined by data-mining of an international spoligotyping database, SpolDB3. This database contains 11,708 patterns from as many clinical isolates originating from more than 90 countries. The 11,708 spoligotypes were clustered into 813 shared types. A total of 1,300 orphan patterns (clinical isolates showing a unique spoligotype) were also detected.
PMCID: PMC2738532  PMID: 12453368
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; spoligotyping

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