Chagas disease

Chagas disease is found almost exclusively in Latin America, although increased global travel and migration have led to more cases being reported in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. Chagas is a parasitic disease transmitted by triatomine bugs, which live in cracks in the walls and roofs of mud and straw housing. It can also be transmitted through blood transfusions or to the foetus during pregnancy, and, less frequently, through organ transplants.

Symptoms are rare in the first, acute stage of the disease and if they do appear they are mild. Then the chronic stage is asymptomatic for years. Ultimately, however, debilitating complications develop in approximately 30 per cent of people infected, shortening life expectancy by an average of 10 years. Heart complications such as heart failure, arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy are the most common cause of death in adults.

Diagnosis is complicated, requiring laboratory analysis of blood samples. There are currently only two medicines available to treat the disease: benznidazole and nifurtimox, which were both developed over 40 years ago.

The cure rate is almost 100 per cent in newborns and infants and in acute cases, but as the gap between the date of infection and the beginning of treatment lengthens, the cure rate declines.

The treatment currently used can be toxic and can take longer than two months to complete. Despite the clear need for more efficient and safer medication, there are few new drugs in development.

MSF has provided free diagnosis and treatment for Chagas disease sufferers since 1999. We currently have projects in Bolivia and Mexico.

Article
MSF A man gets informed on how to prevent Chagas in Karuma. Sucre – Médecins Sans Frontières...
Press release
Residents now have access to diagnosis and treatment for Chagas.
Press release
Six out of the 11 rapid diagnostic tests available in the market are highly reliable
Interview
MSF Laurence Flevaud, MSF Laboratory Advisor. Barcelona. What are the results of the study and why...
Interview
Emiliano Lucero talks about the challenges MSF faces and the populations assisted in Mexico
Press release
An agreement between MSF and state government in Mexico will prevent Chagas disease
Mexico
MSF continued to run its programme for migrants, offering mental healthcare and psychosocial...
Op-ed
Op-ed by Dr Unni Karunakara, International President of MSF
Bolivia
From 2015, an integrated strategy with the Ministry of Health for the treatment of Chagas has been...
Gallery
Gallery: MSF Chagas project in Aiquile, Bolivia
Press release
Report
To break the vicious cycle that leaves tropical diseases neglected, existing programmes that...
Op-ed
Performing a spinal tap under field conditions is nerve-wracking. Sticking a needle into someone's...
Press release
The Gates Foundation-hosted conference held in London today, ‘Uniting To Combat Tropical Diseases...
Report
Article
This report looks at developments in 2011 that had an impact, both positive or negative, on people’...
Press release
MSF is urging the Brazilian Ministry of Health, which is responsible for the only laboratory in the...
Article
Definition: First described by the Brazilian doctor Carlos Chagas, this parasitic disease is found...

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