It is estimated that as many as 8 to 11 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America have Chagas disease.
The disease is spread by contact with an infected triatomine bug, known as the "kissing bug."
Chagas disease can cause serious heart and stomach illnesses.
IDRI is pursuing a multi-faceted approach to eliminating Chagas Disease:
The organisms that cause Chagas Disease and leishmaniasis are similar, and we have developed a prototype vaccine that may be effective against both diseases. Such a vaccine would dramatically reduce the number of new cases of Chagas Disease each year, ultimately saving millions of lives. When used in combination with a blood-screening test, Chagas Disease could be eliminated.
- Diagnostic tests to screen the blood supply for Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas Disease
- Diagnostic tests that effectively detect T. cruzi infection
Making a Difference
In 2010 the U.S. FDA approved a test that utilizes IDRI technology to screen blood and organ donations for T. cruzi. This is one of only two FDA approved Chagas tests, and it is an important part of the screening procedures that help to maintain the safety of the blood supply.
About Chagas Disease
Chagas Disease is prevalent in Latin America. It is caused by chronic infection of the parasite T. cruzi, which is most commonly transmitted to individuals through insects, blood transfusions, or from mother to baby during pregnancy. The parasite spreads throughout the body, invading many different cell and tissue types. The infection may trigger a chronic inflammatory disease in 30% of individuals. If left untreated, the disease usually impairs the heart and digestive system. Chagas Disease is a leading cause of heart disease in Latin America. In adults, the decline in health develops slowly, occurring 20-30 years after the initial infection. In pregnancy, however, the disease can be devastating; congenital infection with T. cruzi can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and newborn death.
Because T. cruzi infection can persist in asymptomatic adults for many years, the parasite has contaminated the blood supply in many areas of Latin America. Currently, 100,000 U.S. immigrants from Central and South America are infected with T. cruzi, and contamination of the U.S. blood supply is becoming a serious problem.
What is Needed to Stop Chagas Disease?
Prevention of Chagas Disease will require continued diligence to break the cycle of parasite transmission. Insect vector control, accurate diagnosis and effective therapy for active cases, and adequate screening to protect against transmission in the blood supply are all important weapons.