The Kiss of Death: Chagas' Disease in the Americas

Chagas' disease afflicts people in Latin and South America, and is spreading





A study of the disease by Dr. Joseph Bastien

Chagas' disease affects an estimated 18 to 20 million people in Central, South America, and the United States. Its symptoms are varied, diffuse, and may be caused by other diseases besides chagas. Acute chagas is lethal, especially for children, and chronic chagas debilitates patients for years (see diagram).

Chief symptoms of Chagas' disease include constipation, malaise or a feeling of always being tired, the inability to swallow, fever, and varying degrees of discomfort and/or abdominal pain.

These symptoms are caused by a microscopic pathogen called Trypamosoma cruzi, or T. cruzi, a protozoan parasite. T. cruzi is transmitted to humans by Triatomine insects, called vinchucas and barbeiros, that are commonly found in poor areas with unsanitary housing conditions. T.cruzi inhabits its victims' cells, and colonizes the heart, colon, and esophagus.

This web site gives information to the patient as well as to the lay person about Chagas' disease.

© Copyright University of Texas at Arlington 1998

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