Chagas disease, is classified as one of the 17 most important neglected diseases by the World Health Organization, affecting millions of people in Central and South America. The disease is an inflammatory, infectious disease caused by a parasite found in the feces of the triatomine (reduviid) bug, infect anyone, but is diagnosed most often in children.
The disease can cause initial swelling, fever, and headache, but symptoms generally disappear away after a few months. Infected people can then live for decades with no more signs of the disease, during which time clinicians have assumed they have no increased mortality.
Ligia Capuani, from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and colleagues studied 2,842 Chagas-positive and 5,684 Chagas-negative blood donors in Sao Paulo from 1996 to 2000. Since blood donors are routinely screened for symptoms of active Chagas disease, it was assumed that blood samples tested positive for the parasite were from individuals in the indeterminate phase of the disease.
Among those who tested positive for Chagas, 5.6% died during the study, whereas only 1.8% who tested negative for the disease died, representing a more than doubling of the overall death risk. However, Chagas was often not listed as a cause of death in patients who had tested positive for the disease and died of heart problems.
Researchers say, Chagas disease was not reported as an underlying or associated cause of death on the death certificate of 42% of donors being a positive serum reaction that died due to cardiac causes, demonstrates under ascertainment of Chagas disease pathogenesis, highlighting its status as a neglected tropical disease.
Currently, there is no vaccine available for the disease. The best way to prevent infection is to protect yourself against that bug spreading the parasite by applying insecticides and tending to open places in homes.