Guatemala, February, 2018. Several organizations including Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), Fundación Mundo Sano and the International Development Research Center (IDRC, Canada), under the leadership of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance, and with the cooperation of the Guatemala San Carlos University, the Association for Social Studies and Research and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in Guatemala have joined forces to carry out the Project Alliances for the elimination of Chagas disease as a public health concern in Central America and Mexico.
The project will be developed over a period of three years and will help eliminate Chagas as a public health issue in Jutiapa, Guatemala, one of the areas with the largest transmission rate in the country. About 18,270 people will benefit from this initiative which is expected to build skills in first and second level health services for timely and sustainable access to the care and follow up of this illness. “We believe that the combination of actions will more effectively contribute to the elimination of the disease in Guatemala”, said Dr. Roberto Molina Barrera, Technical Deputy Minister.
Chagas is one of a number of neglected infectious diseases associated with poverty. The factors influencing its transmission are the type of dwelling (huts made with mud, wood and stone, walls made of a material known as bahareque or adobe, roofs built with vegetal matter, and mud floors), animals staying inside houses overnight, firewood stacked indoors, deforestation, and so on. The disease is transmitted mainly by bed bugs (Hemiptera Cimicidae, Triatominae sub-family) that colonize rural, suburban or unhealthy urban housing. Also, it is transmitted by blood transfusions, organ transplant, vertically from mother to baby through the placenta, ingestion of contaminated food and beverages, and other agents.
In Guatemala, it is transmitted mainly through the feces of an indigenous vector, Triatoma dimidiata.
“We, as PAHO/WHO, are very happy to facilitate this kind of alliances striving for the elimination of neglected diseases,” said Dr. Oscar Barreneche, PAHO/WHO Representative in Guatemala. “We have to admit that the efforts made in the Americas have led to the elimination of several diseases and we hope that this kind of alliances will help advance in the Chagas elimination process,” he added.
Seventeen countries in the Americas have attained the elimination of Chagas transmission by its main vector. In Guatemala, transmission by the Rhodniusprolixus vector was interrupted in 2008 and complete elimination is expected to be certified this year.