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 is the prognosis for Chagas disease?

In general, the prognosis for people who do not develop the chronic phase of Chagas disease is usually good. People who are diagnosed and treated in the acute phase of the disease usually have an excellent prognosis. However, individuals who go on to develop chronic-phase Chagas disease have a worse prognosis due to the damage caused to the heart, GI tract, and possibly other organs.

What are the complications of Chagas disease?

Most of the complications that develop with Chagas disease are seen in the chronic phase of the disease. Most of the complications are related to muscle changes (muscle atrophy, fibrosis, and inflammation) caused by the parasites in two body organs, the heart, and the GI tract. Consequently, heart failure and esophageal and colon enlargement (megaesophagus and megacolon) are serious complications of Chagas disease. These changes can result in weakness, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, and death. Other organs may also malfunction (ureters, bile duct, for example).

What research is being done for Chagas disease?

Research is progressing on Chagas disease. The BENEFIT study plans to determine if 60 days of treatment with an antiparasitic drug (benznidazole) could prevent the progression of cardiac disease in patients with chronic Chagas disease (18-75 years of age). Another study on benznidazole is in progress to determine how well it performs in children (2-12 years of age) in prevention of deaths and complications in young adults. Researchers continue to search for a vaccine against Chagas disease; one group reports success in protecting mice with inactivated mutant parasites, while another group reports development of a vaccine made from parasite DNA. Aggressive research may provide ways to treat and prevent Chagas disease. However, a few researchers say all that is really necessary is to prevent primitive housing that leads to development of the domiciliary cycle.


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Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/2/2015

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