What is Chagas disease?

Chagas disease or American trypanosomiasis, is a tropical parasitic disease caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi and spread mostly by insects known as Triatominae or kissing bugs.

What are the symptom?

The symptoms change over the course of the infection. In the early stage, symptoms are typically either not present or mild and may include: fever, swollen lymph node, headaches, or local swelling at the site of the bite.

After 8–12 weeks, individuals enter the chronic phase of disease and in 60–70% it never produces further symptoms. The other 30 to 40% of people develop further symptoms 10 to 30 years after the initial infection. This includes enlargement of the ventricular of heart in 20 to 30% leading to heart failure. An enlarged oesophagus or an enlarged colon may also occur in 10% of people.

How does it spread?

T. cruzi is commonly spread to humans and other mammals by the blood-sucking “kissing bugs” of the subfamily Triatominae. These insects are known by a number of local names, including: vinchuca in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Paraguay, barbeiro (the barber) in Brazil, pito in Colombia, chinche in Central America, and chipo in Venezuela.

Rhodnius proxilus is principal vector in the principal vector in ColombiaVenezuela,GuatemalaHonduras, and some parts of Nicaragua and El Salvad

The disease may also be spread through blood transfusion, organ transplantation, eating food contaminated with the parasites, and from a mother to her fetus.

How is the diagnosis made?

Diagnois of early disease is by finding the parasite in the blood using a microscope. Chronic disease is diagnosed by finding antibodies for T. cruzi in the blood.

How do you prevent this disease from spreading?

Prevention mostly involves eliminating kissing bugs and avoiding their bites. Other preventative efforts include screening blood used for transfusions. No vaccine has been developed as of 2014.

What is the treatment?

Early infections are treatable with the medication benznidazole ornifurtimox. They nearly always result in a cure if given early however become less effective the longer a person has had Chagas disease. When used in chronic disease they may delay or prevent the development of end stage symptoms. Benznidazole and nifurtimox cause temporary side effects in up to 40% of people  including skin disorders, brain toxicity, and digestive system irritation.