What is Chagas Disease?

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What is Chagas Disease? Blog Image


The World Health Organisation (WHO) observed World Chagas Disease Day on April 14 to raise awareness about the often-overlooked illness.

About Chagas Disease:

  • Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is an infectious disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.
  • The disease has been named after Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, who discovered it in 1909.
  • Transmission:
    • It is transmitted to humans through the bite of the infected triatomine bugs, also known as "kissing bugs", which feed on blood and are active mostly at night. 
    • It can also be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ transplantation, congenital transmission from mother to child, and the consumption of contaminated food or beverages.
  • As per WHO statistics, there are approximately 6-7 million people infected with Chagas disease worldwide, mostly in Latin America, with 10,000 deaths every year. 
  • Chagas disease progresses through two main stages: acute and chronic.
  • Acute stage:
    • The acute stage typically occurs shortly after infection and may exhibit mild or no symptoms at all, making it difficult to diagnose.
    • Common symptoms include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, vomiting, and swelling at the site of infection (chagoma).
  • Chronic stage:
    • If left untreated, the infection progresses to the chronic stage, which can manifest yearsor even decadesafter the initial infection.
    • It can lead to severe complications, including cardiac issues such as cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, heart failure, and gastrointestinal problems such as megaesophagus and megacolon.
  • It is often referred to as "silent and silenced disease" as the infected majority have no symptoms or extremely mild symptoms.
  • There are no vaccines or medicines to prevent Chagas disease.
  • Treatment:
    • Treatment for Chagas disease includes antiparasitic medications, such as benznidazole.
    • In addition, if you have cardiac or intestinal complications from Chagas disease, you may need further treatment.

Q1: What is the World Health Organization (WHO)?

It is a specialized agency of the United Nations which was established in 1948, that connects nations, partners and people to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable – so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health.

Source: Chagas Disease: All About Infection Caused By "Kissing Bugs"