This April 14th is World Chagas disease day; this neglected disease is extended worldwide. About
6 to 8 million people live with Chagas disease in the world, with 1.2 million being women of
childbearing age. However, diagnosis and treatment of women of fertile age prevent congenital
transmission; for this reason, we need everyone’s help to make this disease visible. In this sense,
Marcelo Abril, Chief Executive Officer of Mundo Sano, answers five questions about this disease.
While important advances have been made in the intradomiciliary control of insect populations,
are there any other transmission routes of Chagas disease?
Chagas disease has been historically transmitted by contact with vinchucas, triatomine bugs that
are widely distributed both in rural and urban areas of Latin America. However, there are other
transmission routes, which are currently under control, such as blood transfusions and
transplantation of organs from an infected person. There is another transmission route, mother-
to-child transmission during pregnancy or childbirth. In the current context, due to the magnitude
of this mode of transmission, it is very significant for disease epidemiology.
So, can we say that Chagas disease is present in big cities?
In the last decades, due to migratory movements within countries and to neighbouring countries,
most of the infected people have lived in urban settings, very often outside the historically Chagas
endemic areas. This phenomenon has expanded to other continents, as a consequence of
migratory movements from Latin America to the rest of the world, mainly Europe and the United
Can this silent disease be treated?
Chagas disease can be treated. Treatment should be provided early, before the development of
cardiac or digestive symptoms. At present, there are two drugs for the treatment of the disease:
benznidazole and nifurtimox. The earlier the treatment is given, the better the expected result;
this is why early diagnosis in children and young people is so important.
I would like to stress that in Argentina, diagnosis is made through a simple blood test, which is free
of charge and can be performed in public hospitals.
Has progress been made in the treatment of this disease in the last years?
Yes, and very important ones, in the control both of vector transmission and transfusions and
organ transplantations. For this reason, now it is time to support the advances made and work all
together to control mother-to-child transmission of the disease, a goal that can and must be met.
What is the next step of the Foundation regarding Chagas disease?
Our Foundation works both on prevention, to avoid new cases of Chagas disease, and on
promoting access to diagnosis and treatment and making it real, because we want “new
generations free of Chagas disease”.
Since 2021, we have been a Technical Unit of the new Ibero-American initiative for Congenital
Chagas “Not a single baby with Chagas disease: the path towards new generations free of
Chagas disease”, which aims at eliminating mother-to-child transmission of Chagas disease”, a
role that makes us feel proud and responsible.
Chagas disease is a public health issue that involves all of us as a society. Diagnosis and treatment
of women of childbearing age prevent congenital transmission; for this reason, we need
everyone’s help to make this disease visible and to meet the goal that not a single baby is born
with Chagas disease by 2030