There are approximately 10 million people living with the Chagas Disease, most of them in Latin and Central America.
According to an editorial entitled “Chagas Disease: The New HIV/AIDS of the Americas” published in the Public Library of Science’s Neglected Tropical Diseases this week, the spread of Chagas resembles the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Also known as American trypanosomiasis, Chagas is a vector-borne tropical disease transmitted by triatomine insects that blood-feed on humans. Upon biting, they excrete parasites, also known as Trypanosoma cruzi, that enter the bite when scratched.
Like HIV/AIDS, Chagas is a chronic condition requiring prolonged expensive treatment that disproportionately affects people living in poverty. Although it is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, it can be passed through blood-transfusion and organ transplants, from mother-to-child and orally through contaminated food.
Symptoms in the acute phase may include fever, malaise, swelling of one eye and swollen red area at the bite site, while chronic phase symptoms can include constipation, digestive problems, pain in the abdomen and difficulty swallowing.
An estimated 20 to 30 percent of those infected with Chagas can develop Chagasic cardiomyopathy, a highly debilitating condition characterized by abnormal heart rhythms that lead to heart failure.
There are two approaches to treating the disease: anti parasitic treatment and symptomatic treatment.