Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Beware of Chagas’s disease

Dr Carlos Chagas first described American trypanosomiasis in 1909. An excellent review has recently been published.

Dr Carlos Chagas first described American trypanosomiasis in 1909. An excellent review has recently been published.

Transmitted via faeces deposited on the skin by reduviid bugs, this is largely a disease of rural areas and crevice-prone dwellings in six South American countries and affects 20 million people, of whom 100,000 live in the USA1. Blood transfusion and vertical transmission may occur.

The asymptomatic stage may last 10 to 30 years, then cardiac and GIT megasyndromes develop. HIV-positive people are at risk of severe disease with high case fatality rates.

The geographical risk area extends into the Southern and mid-Atlantic USA. Autochthonous cases have occurred in a handful of people in the USA over the last 50 years and the disease is probably spreading in wild and domestic animals. In 2000 in Oklahoma 3.6% of domestic dogs were seropositive.

The major risk is at night when the bugs parachute or glide down from high crevices to feed on the blood of sleeping animals or humans. Pyrethroid impregnated bed nets will protect and can be recommended for those travelling to non-malarial areas in South America and staying in rural dwellings.

Think about screening for Chagas's disease in aid workers, bible translators, those on recreational visits to remote locations, and immigrants from South America. WHO recommends the use of at least two antigen detection tests to confirm the diagnosis. Cases should be referred to an expert centre.

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say