CEDIC 101: Chagas disease

20110607-052608.jpg Chagas disease is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasite related to the African trypanosome that causes sleeping sickness. It is spread by reduvid bugs and is one of the major health problems in South America. Due to immigration, the disease also affects people in the United States.

Risk factors for Chagas disease include: Living in a hut where reduvid bugs live in the walls Living in Central or South America Poverty Receiving a blood transfusion from a person who carries the parasite but does not have active Chagas disease Symptoms Chagas disease has two phases -- acute and chronic. The acute phase may have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. Symptoms include: Fever General ill feeling (malaise) Swelling of one eye Swollen red area at site of insect bite

After the acute phase the disease goes into remission. No other symptoms may appear for many years. When symptoms finally develop, they may include:

Constipation Digestive problems Pain in the abdomen Swallowing difficulties Signs and tests

Physical examination can confirm the symptoms. Signs may include:

Cardiomyopathy Enlarged liver and spleen Enlarged lymph nodes Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)

Tests include:

Blood culture Chest x-ray Echocardiogram Electrocardiogram (ECG) Enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA) Peripheral blood smear Treatment

The acute phase and reactivated Chagas disease should be treated. Infants born with the infection should also be treated. Treating the chronic phase is recommended for both children and adults. Adult patients should talk to their doctor about whether to treat chronic Chagas disease.

Two drugs are used to treat this infection: benznidazole and nifurtimox. Both drugs often have side effects. The side effects may be worse in older people.

Complete profile [ Chagas NCBI ]