Chagas disease

 
 

Overview

Also referred to as American trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease is a condition caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite commonly found in the Americas (particularly in rural areas of South and Central America). The condition can be contracted through vector-borne transmission (where disease is acquired from an insect bite) or blood transfusions, organ transplantations, consumption of uncooked foods contaminated with the feces of infected insects, accidental lab exposure, or congenital (mother-to-baby) transmission. 

Presently, there are two known phases of Chagas disease: acute and chronic. These can range from symptom-free to life-threatening. During the acute phase, which lasts for a few weeks or months, a person could be asymptomatic or experience mild symptoms. Chronic Chagas disease, if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications such as congestive heart failure.

Common Symptoms

The severity or course of Chagas disease can vary depending on age at the time of infection, how they became infected, and the strain of the T. cruzi parasite that infects the individual. 

Some of the more common symptoms include Romaña’s sign (eyelid swelling), fever, fatigue, body aches, headaches, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, enlargement of the spleen or liver, swollen glands, chagoma (swelling at bite site), difficulty eating, and constipation.

Coexisting Diseases and Conditions

Myocarditis (inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall), heart failure, altered heart rate/rhythm, cardiac arrest, megaesophagus (enlargement of the esophagus), megacolon (enlargement of the colon), and meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues).

Risk Factors and Prevalence

Those with weakened immune systems (perhaps from chemotherapy or HIV infection) can potentially die during the acute phase of the disease. Poverty and inadequate housing conditions increase the risk of exposure to Chagas disease, particularly in South America, Central America, and Mexico. It can also be transmitted through blood transfusions or organ transplants from a person who carries the infection. 

Sources

  1. Article Sources and Footnotes
    1. Chagas disease. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2021, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/chagas-disease-(american-trypanosomiasis)

    2. Chagas disease—Symptoms and causes. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 15, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chagas-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20356212

    3. Prevention, C.-C. for D. C. and. (2021, January 7). CDC – Chagas Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas/index.html

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