STATES CHRONICLE – Chagas disease is one of the top five neglected parasitic infections, as it is a severe condition that spreads quickly. A new study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, found that Trypanosoma cruzi, the virus which causes Chagas disease, is more deadly than previously reported.
Chagas Disease: The Neglected Condition
A group of researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, monitored around 8,000 people who donated blood between 1996 and 2000. They observed how more than 2,800 donors had Chagas disease when they donated blood. The other 5,684 tested negative for the condition. Afterwards, scientists monitored the records of the ill patients for the next 14 years.
They also cross-referenced their records with death certificates from the Brazil National Information System. They saw how, during the 14 years of monitoring, more than 5.5 percent of the Chagas-positive patients died. In comparison, only 1.7 percent of the patients that tested negative for Chagas disease died.
During chronic stages, the disease can cause intestinal complications and cardiac abnormalities. Therefore, researchers were able to note Chagas as a cause for cardiac-related deaths. Results prove people who contracted the disease are 18 times more likely to develop heart disease.
“The fact that Chagas disease was not reported as an underlying or associated cause of death on the death certificate of 42% of seropositive donors that died due to cardiac causes demonstrates under ascertainment of Chagas disease pathogenesis, highlighting its status as a neglected tropical disease,” the researchers write.
Kissing bugs (triatomine bugs) are the ones which spread the T. Cruzi virus, causing Chagas disease. They are called kissing bugs because they bite sleeping people on their eyes or lips. The virus is transmitted through their feces, which they leave near the bite. Sometimes, this virus might not even cause any symptoms.
Despite being asymptomatic, the disease can result in death. There is no vaccine for Chagas, so the only solution is to decline the kissing bug population to stop the spread of the condition. Scientists are currently looking for effective ways to kill the bugs.
Image source: Flickr