Who is responsible and how is Chagas disease transmited?

Chagas is produced by the protist parasite “Trypanosoma cruzi”. This parasite fulfills part of its life cycle in the digestive tract of kissing bugs (Triatominae) and another part of the cycle in the blood and / or tissues of mammals, including humans.

The parasite can be transmitted through different routes:

  1. Vectorial route: By an infected “kissing bug” or “bedbug”.
  2. Congenital or vertical route: From an infected mother to her children during pregnancy or childbirth.
  3. Transfusion route: Through blood transfusion or transplantation of an organ infected with the parasite.
  4. Oral route or by laboratory accidents: By consuming food or drinks contaminated with the parasite or by accidents during the handling of the parasite.

How is it NOT transmitted?

  • By sharing a “mate” or any other drink
  • Through breast milk
  • Through sexual intercourse
  • Through saliva, kisses or hugs.

How does the disease evolve?

Once the parasite enters the body through the bloodstream, a process begins in which different phases or stages can be differentiated:

Acute phase: Lasts between 15 and 60 days after contracting the parasite, with no apparent or characteristic symptoms of the disease. Few people have a prolonged fever, diarrhea, headache, tiredness, etc.

Asymptomatic chronic or undetermined phase: It can last several years or even a lifetime.
It is important to mention that 7 out of 10 people with Chagas can be found in this situation and will not develop the disease.

Symptomatic chronic phase: Approximately 3 out of 10 people who have the parasite enter the chronic phase after 20 or 30 years of contracting it. In this phase, the most frequently affected organ is the heart and, to a lesser extent, damage to the digestive system and / or nervous system can occur.

How can you tell if you have Chagas?

The only way to detect it is through a blood analysis.

Is there any treatment?

Currently the only drugs authorized are el Benznidazol andNifurtimox. These pills are prescription only, and they involve a 30-60 day treatment.

The treatment is more effective if started sooner. In children and adolescents in the acute stage, it has a healing rate of 70 to 95%. However, it is essential to keep in mind that at any stage of the disease or age of the patient, the treatment must be adequately supervised by a doctor.

What to do if you are pregnant and you belive you have Chagas disease?

Every pregnant woman should be diagnosed for Chagas. If positive, the woman should receive specific clinical controls during pregnancy and, after delivery, should be cared for with the criteria of care for people in the chronic phase. In Argentina there are laws (http://www.hablamosdechagas.com.ar/recursos/leyes/) that protect both the mother and the child. Every baby from a mother who has the parasite must be included at birth in a specific monitoring protocol to determine if they have contracted the parasite through their mother.

For more information, visit the website by Hablemos de Chagas (in Spanish)

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