Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis)

What is Chagas disease?

Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi or (T. cruzi).

It is found mainly in 21 Latin American countries1, where it is mostly vector-borne. The main vector involved in the transmission of the parasite to humans is a triatomine bug, also known as a ‘kissing bug’. An estimated 8 million people are infected worldwide, mostly in Latin America. Chagas disease is clinically curable if treatment is initiated at an early stage. Therefore universal access to prompt diagnosis and care is essential.

Once totally confined to the Region of the Americas, Chagas disease has spread to other continents over the last century mainly because of enhanced means of travel and global population movement to and from Latin America.

It is estimated that over 10 000 people die every year from clinical manifestations of Chagas disease, and more than 25 million people risk acquiring the disease.

Vector control remains the most useful method to prevent infection. Blood screening is vital to avoid infection through transfusion and organ transplantation. Screening and diagnosis in pregnant women and their children are essential control measures.

Chagas disease is named after Carlos Justiniano Chagas, a Brazilian doctor, who discovered the disease in 1909.