Chagas disease is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a flagellate protozoan parasite. This organism belongs to the taxonomic family Trypanosomatidae within the order Kinetoplastida. It exhibits a high level of intraspecific variation, making it a difficult disease for scientists to battle. Chagas, because it often causes early mortality and disability in youth, imposes a high economic cost on the countries where the disease is found. HISTORY
Chagas' disease is named after the man who productively researched the affliction in northern Brazil during the building of the railroad in 1909. Dr. Carlos Chagas found the cause of the disease to be the parasite T. cruzi residing in the host's tissue.
Dr. Chagas not only found the pathogen but also found that it is transmitted to humans through triatomine [tri-PAN-o-so-MY-a-sis] insects, commonly called barbeiros and vinchucas, bites. Much had been learned through the hard work and insightfulness of Dr. Chagas. It is fitting that the disease bears the name of the gifted parasitologist.
Carlos Chagas observed that vinchucas, or barbeiros, are sensitive to light and during the day hide in cracks and crevices of walls and ceilings where they rest, copulate, and lay eggs, which are tiny, white, and ball-shaped. They are sometimes called kissing bugs because of their predilection for the face because they tend to bite skin where it is thinnest, around the mouth and eyes and act as the vectors of Chagas' to humans. Dr. Chagas called the resulting chagoma from a bite beneath the eye Signo de Romana and pointed this out as an important indicator of acute Chagas' disease. SYMPTOMS Symptoms of Chagas' disease: There are three stages of infection with Chagas' disease -- each stage has different symptoms. Some persons may be infected and never develop symptoms. Acute: Acute symptoms only occur in about 1% of cases. Most people infected do not seek medical attention. The...