CHAGAS DISEASE

Chagas disease is caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi and is transmitted mainly through the bite of an insect known as a barbeiro. In its host, the protozoan lives in the peripheral blood and in the muscle fibers , among which the cardiac ones stand out. In view of this, one can observe as symptoms of the disease heart disorders and liver enlargement , in addition to fever , malaise, and others.

The treatment of this disease should be done as soon as possible, as existing drugs are more effective in the initial phase of the disease . As prevention, we can mention the control of the transmitting insect, placing screens on doors and windows and avoiding debris at home and in the surroundings, as these are places where the barber can be found.

What is Chagas disease?

Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis , is a serious problem and has high morbidity and mortality, especially in endemic countries, such as Brazil. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , about seven million people are infected, most of them in Latin America.

Chagas disease is caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi . It is named after the Brazilian researcher who discovered it, Carlos Chagas . Transmission occurs mainly due to the bite of an insect popularly known as barbeiro . Inside the human organism, the protozoan can be found in the blood or in muscle fibers, mainly in the heart and digestive system . Thus, an important symptom of the disease is the increase in the size of the heart, liver and spleen.

Transmission of Chagas disease

There are two main routes of transmission of the disease. The classic form occurs through the bite of a hematophagous (blood-feeding) triatomine insect known as a barber. As it sucks blood from the host, it eliminates feces containing the contaminating form of the protozoan. The bite causes an itch, and the individual, by scratching, facilitates the entry of the protozoan into the body. Another common way is by eating contaminated food .

In addition to the aforementioned ways, transmission can occur:

  • from mother to fetus during pregnancy;
  • in accidents in laboratories;
  • through organ transplantation and blood transfusion.

However, it is important to note that there is currently greater control over the material used in transfusions , to prevent transmission not only of Chagas disease, but of countless others, such as AIDS.

Symptoms of Chagas disease

Chagas disease has an incubation period of five to 14 days . After it, symptoms may appear depending on the stage of the disease:

  • Acute phase: is the initial phase of the disease, usually asymptomatic. However, attention should be paid as the disease can worsen in children, leading to death. When there are symptoms, they can manifest as:

– fever

– lack of appetite

– malaise

– heart disorders

– inflammation of the lymph nodes

– swelling in some parts of the body, such as the eyelids, spleen and liver

  • Chronic phase: in some cases, the person can go for years without showing symptoms. However, they can arise with increased involvement of organs, such as the heart (triggering, for example, changes in its rhythm of contraction), and the digestive tract, causing swelling of organs, such as the esophagus.

Diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease

The diagnosis of Chagas disease is performed by specific laboratory tests , such as Indirect Immunofluorescence (IIF), and serological tests . The diagnosis must be made as soon as possible, as the treatment must still take place in the initial phase of the disease , when it is most effective. In the chronic phase, treatment is done in order to alleviate symptoms and avoid complications.

Chagas disease prevention

Chagas disease can be prevented by taking some precautions, in order to control the agent that transmits the disease , such as:

  • Avoid debris near or inside the residence, as these are places where the barber can stay;
  • Improve constructions, preventing them from showing cracks and crevices, where the barber can lodge;
  • Use screens on doors and windows;
  • Keep bird nests away from the house, as they are used by barbers for their development;
  • Build animal husbandry facilities such as chicken coops and styes, as well as warehouses away from the home and keep them clean.
  • Carefully wash the sugar cane and açaí before processing.

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