Chagas Disease Symptoms and Treatment

The triatomine bug, the responsible to pass trypanosoma cruzy (T. Cruzy) parasites to people causing Chagas Disease, is known by many names in South and Central America. If you ever travel to Central America you will probably hear the name "chinche y telepate", or "vinchuca" if you go to Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, "barbeiro" in Brazil and "Pito" in Colombia.

The Chagas Disease transmitter insect is also known as "the kissing bug" because they ingest blood in people's faces.

Although most of the people are not aware they are infected, there are 11 million people in Latin America who have Chagas Disease.

Symptoms



Let's start by saying that Chagas Disease has two different stages: an early acute stage that only produce swelling in the infected area and, after many years, we see another stage with more chronic symptoms, some of them fatal.

Acute Stage Symptoms



They last just a few weeks and sometimes there are no symptoms at all. These symptoms are the same as other conditions and include:

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Rash

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of Appetite

  • Diarrhea



Chronic Stage Symptoms



About 30% of people infected will develop chronic conditions after years or even decades after infection. The nervous system, digestive system and heart could be affected.

Transmission



Chagas is transmitted by an insect vector called triatomine bug. During the day, triatomine hide in crevices in the walls and roofs. The bugs emerge at night, when people are sleeping. After they bite and ingest blood, they defecate on the person, passing T. cruzi parasites.

Diagnosis



The presence of T. cruzi parasites is diagnostic of Chagas disease.

Prevention



Even tough there is no vaccine against Chagas, improving sanitary conditions on rural zones can help to prevent the spread of this disease.

Treatment



Chagas Disease can actually be managed in two ways: getting read of the parasites or treating the symptoms. However, in chronic stage, it exists the need to treat the associated conditions in the nervous system, digestive system and heart.

More about Chagas Disease



Chagas Disease affects 18 million people (as for 2008) and kills 20,000 people annually. Chagas spreads from Southern United States to Argentina and is present in 18 countries in the Americas. Brazilian Infectologist Carlos Chagas was the first person to describe this disease. He run some tests in monkeys to probe that Triatomine was the insect that transmited the parasites responsible of the disorder.

Awareness Campaigns



The Chagas: Time to Treat Campaign is an international campaign started by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative to advocate for increased research and development of treatments for Chagas disease.

Chagas Disease on Pop Culture: House MD



On an Episode where Dr. House's employees were trying to corroborate that their boss had syphilis, Dr. Kutner realized that the patient they were treating, Jeff, could have Chagas Disease when he remembered that Chagas was a cause of syphilis, and by the fact that Jeff had been in Costa Rica as a Peace Corp member.