Chagas Disease (American Trypanosomiasis or Kissing Bug Disease)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What types of physicians treat Chagas disease?

Although most acute-phase infections usually do not require specialists, often patients with chronic-phase Chagas disease may benefit from consultation with a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, and/or an infectious-disease specialist. Some patients may need a transplant surgeon. The physician team members are usually made up of physicians that are experts required according to the severity of each individual's chronic problems.

Can transmission of Chagas disease be prevented with a vaccine?

Currently, there is no vaccine available for humans to prevent Chagas disease. However, there are other ways available to humans to reduce or even prevent the disease. Most experts in Chagas disease agree that a majority of infections can be prevented by improving poor or primitive housing conditions. Judicious use of insecticides and education of people about home cleanliness for populations at risk for Chagas disease can augment good housing design. The principal goal is to prevent the vector (bugs) from establishing a domiciliary cycle in the home by making a home difficult for the bugs to invade or live in. For example, plaster-sealed walls in a home with a metal or shingle roof are far less likely to be populated by bug vectors than a mud-walled structure covered with a thatch roof, and a well-cleaned home is far less likely to have areas for bugs to hide and replicate than an unclean home. Several studies suggest this is an effective way to prevent Chagas disease. In addition, insect repellents and insecticides like Pyrethrin may reduce the chance of getting the disease by repelling or killing the vectors.

Since blood transfusions can account for a large number of person-to-person transfers of T. cruzi, many blood banks around the world are now testing donated blood for antibodies to the parasite. If a blood sample is positive, the blood is discarded and the donor usually is notified and requested not to donate blood in the future. Similar situations occur with organ donors. Such methods help prevent Chagas disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/2/2015

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