Chagas Disease – Potential ‘New HIV/AIDS to the Americas’

A new tropical disease, named Chagas Disease, has emerged among the poor population in the Americas and Europe as per the 29th May report published in journal PLoS. The disease is caused by biting insects and poses a major threat to the population.

The report has been co-authored by many experts in tropical illnesses from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, and says that some aspects of the disease are like that of HIV, the AIDS-causing virus.

Chagas disease is endemic and is now a crucial health issue in the Americas. The situation in both the US and the Latin America resembles to the initial years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Chagas disease, just like AIDS, has long incubation period and is tough or rather impossible to cure. The PLoS report finds that there are striking similarities between patients of Chagas disease and those of HIV & AIDS in the first twenty years of the pandemic. Other similarities of the two diseases are that, both are chronic and require long-term treatment and also both particularly affect poor population.

There are some differences too. Chagas disease is caused by a parasite, spreading thorough the bites of a reduviid insect called kissing bug, unlike HIV, which is sexually transmitted. Also while HIV/AIDS affect the immunity of the body, Chagas disease attacks heart and digestive system.

As reported by the National Institutes of Health, Chagas disease may give rise to complications like inflammation of heart, colon and esophagus and also erratic heartbeat and heart failure.

Though as per NIH, it takes over 20 years for the symptoms like heart and digestive problems to show up from the actual time of infection, these symptoms can be disastrous. New York Times has reported that one fourth of the Chagas disease patients develop swollen organs which usually burst leading to sudden death.

Chagas disease spreads from mother to child and also through blood transfusion. The disease is curable if dictated at early stage; however as the treatment is costly, the poor population which is its usual victim cannot afford it and this is the concern for researchers that the disease may spread fast to the USA from Central and South America where it has victimized about 10 million people. Till now it has afflicted about 1 million people in the US, particularly in Texas and the Gulf coast. Some other estimates suggest that there are nearly 300,000 cases in the United States.

Role of Climate in Spread of Chagas Disease

According to researchers and experts of tropical diseases, warmer climate can be a prime factor in spread of the disease because it pushes its carriers further northward.  Science Daily told that bugs are prevalent in bottom two-thirds of the country and they are carrying the parasites; so it is very likely that climate change will make them shift northward and the range of certain species will expand.