What is Chagas?
Chagas disease is a parasitic disease occurring mostly in endemic areas of Latin America; however, in recent decades, it has been detected more frequently in Spain, the United States and Canada, and some Western Pacific countries. This is mostly due to the migration of population from Latin America to the rest of the world.
WHAT DOES FUNDACIÓN MUNDO SANO DO FOR CHAGAS DISEASE?
To combat Chagas disease, we work on prevention, diagnosis and treatment, developing programs and projects aligned with our three pillars: translational research, knowledge dissemination and public-private cooperation.
In prevention, we implement innovative entomological monitoring and control programs in Argentina and Central America; we work on the sanitary improvement of rural housing and provide training courses for health professionals, both on our own and in partnership with other institutions.
In diagnosis and treatment, we work to provide access to health to people affected with Chagas disease in Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Paraguay and Spain.
In Argentina, we have our own health offices in Añatuya, Colonia Dora and Pampa del Indio, and we work together with municipalities in the province of Buenos Aires – area without vector transmission – to tackle a situation that affects population sectors with migration history in Argentina.
In Spain, since 2011, we have conducted screening campaigns to contribute to the timely detection and early treatment of Chagas disease in the Latin American community living in this country. These campaigns are carried out in collaboration with local hospitals in Murcia, Alicante and Barcelona, and with Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII), in Madrid.
In partnership with the private sector, academia and the State, we implemented sustainable, replicable and transferable projects.
In Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, we have implemented the program “Sports, Childhood and Chagas disease”, in partnership with the Barcelona Foundation, the IDB and the Fund for Poverty Reduction of the Government of Japan. Together with ADESAR, we implemented the project “Triple Border of the Chaco in Salta” to contribute to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis and Chagas disease. We are also working on the development of a “Chagas Disease Risk Map”, together with the Bunge & Born Foundation and Grandata.
In Spain, we collaborated with the Chemo Group in the organization of #RetoChagas Initiative, led by the athlete Chema Martínez, with the aim of making this disease visible, which affects more than 55,000 people in this country.
In 2011, we promoted the creation of a public/private consortium to produce benznidazole, the reference drug for the treatment of Chagas disease, and thus respond to the shortage of this drug in the world. This was one of our most important milestones.
In 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the registration of benznidazole for the treatment of Chagas disease in the paediatric population.
Finally, we have recently signed an agreement with the T.H. Chan School of Public Health of Harvard University, to implement joint projects in the areas of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neglected diseases, and to design the first steps of the implementation of the Access Plan in order to improve the treatment of patients with Chagas disease in the United States.
How is Chagas disease transmitted?
Chagas disease is transmitted to people mainly through the faeces of vinchucas; blood transfusion or transplant of organs from an infected person; ingestion of contaminated food or drink; or from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or at delivery, which is known as vertical transmission. At present, this is the transmission route that causes the highest number of cases worldwide.
Chagas disease is diagnosed by means of a blood test and it can be cured if it is detected and treated at an early stage.
Where is the disease contracted?
Chagas disease is usually contracted in houses in rural or suburban areas. Triatomine bugs or vinchucas have nocturnal habits and usually live inside houses, specifically in the cracks of walls and ceilings, where they reproduce. They also find refuge in cardboard boxes, piles of clothes, under mattresses, between accumulated, unused objects, old red and cracks. They can also inhabit between branches of trees and firewood, in pens or chicken coops.
The most effective method to prevent Chagas disease in Latin America is vector control. Likewise, blood screening is critical to prevent infection through blood transfusion and organ transplantation. Spraying houses and their surroundings with insecticides, housing renovation and cleaning to prevent vector infestation is essential for the prevention and control of this disease.
COVID-19 and Chagas Disease
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic crisis (COVID-19) it is important to follow the recommendations issued by the World Health Organization: www.who.int/es/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/ advice-for-public and comply with the measures taken by the health authorities of each country to stop infections, prevent the collapse of hospitals and protect
COVID-19 is a relatively new health challenge and we still lack enough evidence to know how it interacts with other infections. However, experts from various organizations that make up the Chagas Coalition have prepared this series of recommendations for affected people and Chagas personnel against Covid-19.