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CHAGAS DISEASE FACT SHEET  new.gif (865 bytes) 

Chagas disease (named for the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas who first deliniated the Blood disease in 1909) is caused by a microscopic protozoan parasite (Trypanosoma cruzi) called the triatomine bug, also known as the reduviid or kissing bug, which is indigenous to Central and South America. Chagas Disease, more properly Chagas' Disease, which enters the human body through a break in the skin, infects as many as 18-million people worldwide and kills an estimated 50,000 people annually. The Chagas carrying parasite feeds on nerve tissue of organs such as the esophagus, colon or heart, often for years, without evident symptoms. Eventually, symptoms show, including painful swallowing (megaesophagus) or colon disorders (megacolon) or heart failure.

Chagas disease, a parasitic infection, is already a leading killer in Central and South America and is becoming a more common threat in the United States. As many as 100,000 immigrants to the United States from Central and South America may be infected with T. cruzi and contamination of the U.S. Blood supply is now becoming a serious potential problem. Chagas' Disease is documented to be transmitted through Blood transfusion.

Chagas disease is diagnosed by the administering of Blood tests.

Chagas' disease is also known as American trypanosomiasis and Brazilian trypanosomiasis.

People can become infected with Chagas Disease by:


Unknowingly touching their eyes, mouth, or open cuts after having come into contact with infective triatome or reduviid bug feces.


Bugs directly depositing Chagas infected feces in a their eyes.


Eating uncooked food contaminated with the Chagas carrying feces.


Receiving Chagas infection from mother during pregnancy, or at birth, or during breast feeding.


Receiving a Chagas infected Blood transfusion or organ transplant.

Chagas disease can cause symptoms soon after infection, but many people do not become ill until many years later. Persons with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of severe infection, complications and death.

There are several signs and symptoms of Chagas disease. Some people become infected and never develop symptoms. For those who do, Chagas disease has three stages, each with different symptoms:


Acute infection - a few cases (about 1%) have symptoms soon after infection. The most recognized acute symptom is swelling of the eye on one side of the face, usually at the bite wound or where feces were rubbed into the eye. Other symptoms are tiredness, fever, enlarged liver or spleen, swollen lymph glands, and sometimes a rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. Infants and very young children can show a very often-fatal swelling of the brain.


Indeterminate stage - during the indeterminate stage, often about eight to ten weeks after infection, infected persons show no symptoms.


Chronic infection - some people develop serious, irreversible damage to the heart or intestinal tract that appears ten to twenty years after infection. Heart-related problems include an enlarged heart, altered heart rate or rhythm, heart failure, or cardiac arrest. Enlargement of parts of the digestive tract can result in severe constipation or problems with swallowing.

Chagas disease in humans initially induces fever, malaise, lymphadenopathy and hepatosplenomegaly, followed by dilated cardiomyopathy and conduction disturbances, as well as megaesophagus, megacolon and meningoencephalitis. A chagoma (local inflammation caused by the entry of T. cruzi) inflammatory lesion develops at the site of infection in the skin.

There is no vaccine or drug to prevent Chagas disease. Medicine given during the acute stage of infection is usually effective. Once the disease has progressed to the later (chronic) stages, there is no known effective cure.

Ideally, all donated Blood should be screened for Chagas. However, in order to maintain a pure Blood supply, there are a lot of people to be Blood tested. The incubation period can be quite long. After Blood is donated, testing for Chagas Disease is not simple. The testing of donated Blood is estimated to add from $1 to $5 to each one of the 14-million units of Blood donated in the United States each year.

What is needed to effectively protect the Blood supply from Chagas disease?


Implementing realistic and consistent Chagas testing of Blood donors.


Effective diagnostic tests to screen the Blood supply for T. cruzi.


Vaccines to prevent T. cruzi (Chagas) infection.


Therapeutics for Chagas disease.


Research of immune responses providing protection from the parasite and the pathologic immune response causing Chagas disease.


A continuing commitment to purity and protection of the Blood supply.

Animals can become infected with Chagas' Disease in the same ways as humans, or by eating a Chagas carrying bug Blood Book - END

The foregoing text is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to be used
for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health-care professional. If you
have any questions about the information above, consult a health-care professional at once.

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   last updated 09/22/2005 
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