What is Chagas?
Chagas disease is a parasitic disease that is mostly found in endemic areas of Latin America, though in recent decades, it has been found more frequently in Spain, the United States and Canada, and some Eastern 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 address the 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 improvement of rural housing health and provide training courses for health professionals, our own and in partnership with other institutions.
In diagnosis and treatment, we work in in Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Paraguay and Spain to provide access to health to people affected by Chagas disease.
In Argentina, we have our own offices in Añatuya, Colonia Dora and Pampa del Indio, and we carry out joint work with municipalities in the province of Buenos Aires – area without vector transmission – to address a reality that affects population groups with migration history in Argentina.
In Spain, since 2011, we carry out screening campaigns to contribute to the timely detection and early establishment of the 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 launched sustainable, replicable and transferable projects.
In Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, we have implemented the program “Sports, Children and Chagas”, in partnership with the Barcelona Foundation, the IDB and the Fund for Poverty Reduction of the Government of Japan. Together with ADESAR, we launched the project “Triple Border of the Salta Chaco” to contribute to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis and Chagas disease. And we are 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 #RetoChagasinitiative, led by the athlete Chema Martínez, with the aim of making this disease visible, which affects more than 55,000 people in this country.
One of our most important milestones was in 2011, when we started 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.
In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States approved the registration of benznidazole for the treatment of Chagas disease in the pediatric population.
And we have recently signed an agreement with the T.H. Chan School of Public Health of Harvard University, to carry out joint projects in the areas of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neglected diseases and design the first steps of the implementation of the Access Plan in order to improve the care of patients with Chagas disease in the United States.
How is Chagas transmitted?
Chagas disease is transmitted to people mainly through the feces of vinchucas, transfusion of blood 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, known as vertical transmission. At present, this is the transmission way that creates 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 in an early stage.
Where do you get the disease?
Chagas is usually contracted in homes in rural or suburban areas. Bed bugs or vinchucas have nocturnal habits and usually live inside homes, specifically in the cracks of walls and ceilings, where they reproduce. They also take refuge in cardboard boxes, accumulated clothes, under mattresses, between disused objects, old red and cracks. They can also inhabit between branches of trees and firewood, pens or chicken coops.
The most effective method to prevent it in Latin America is vector control. Likewise, blood screening is critical to prevent infection through blood transfusions 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.