McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Specialist in neglected diseases one of Canada’s Top Ten

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: December 17, 2009
Carlos Morillo
Dr. Carlos Morillo, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist, professor of medicine

For his on-going research into neglected diseases, Dr. Carlos Morillo has been named one of Canada’s top 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians by the Hispanic Business Association.

Morillo is a cardiologist and electrophysiologist, professor of medicine in McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, director of the arrhythmia service at Hamilton Health Sciences and researcher with the Population Health Research Institute.

Winners were selected from 34 nominees representing 10 Hispanic countries.

"I feel very honoured and humbled by this very important award.  I am certainly in very prestigious company of people who have made major contributions in all areas, including the arts, science, politics and medicine," said Morillo, a Burlington resident.

An awards ceremony was held recently at the St. Andrews Club in Toronto where Peter Kent, Canada’s minister of state for foreign affairs for the Americas, addressed 300 executives, community leaders, diplomats, journalists and entrepreneurs. Next spring Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with the award winners in Ottawa.

A major focus of Morillo’s work has been Chagas disease, an infectious tropical disease transmitted by a parasite that affects heart tissue, and other neglected diseases, such as rheumatic fever.

Chagas disease is relentless and usually fatal.  About 30 per cent of infected individuals develop enlarged hearts which leads to heart failure and sudden death.  No specific treatment has been developed.

Primarily a disease found in Latin America where 10 million people are infected, immigrants have brought Chagas disease to North America where the Centres for Disease Control estimates 30,000 to 45,000 people with Chagas disease and heart damage currently live in the United States. Although more than 300,000 Hispanics have emigrated to Canada, no Canadian statistics are available.

A lead investigator in the BENEFIT (Benznidazole Evaluation for the Interruption of Trypanosomiasis) trial, Morillo is recruiting 2,500 individuals with Chagas disease in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and Spain. Benznidazole, at a cost of $1 a day, directly kills the parasite and the trial will establish if the progression of heart damage can be halted by eliminating the parasite.

Morillo also has a long-lasting interest in developing new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of atrial fibrillation and autonomic disorders. He is an honorary member of most cardiovascular societies in Latin America.

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