Chagas Disease (cont.)

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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 principle 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.

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.

What are the risk factors for Chagas disease?

Living in an area where the vectors (kissing bugs) that spread the disease are plentiful is a major risk factor for Chagas disease. Such areas are impoverished areas in Mexico and Central and South America. Any residence that is infested with these vectors is a high-risk area; eliminating the areas where the vectors reside reduces the risk. Another risk factor is obtaining a blood transfusion, especially in an endemic region, if the blood donors are not screened for Chagas disease. This risk also occurs for recipients of donated organs. Immunocompromised patients have a higher risk for development of the disease, and some infected women with chronic Chagas (as many as 10%) may transmit the parasites to their newborns.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/29/2014

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