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Posted: September 7th, 2023

Zoonosis: Chagas Disease

Zoonosis: Chagas Disease
The Connection between Human, Animal, and Ecosystem Health

Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a zoonotic disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Chagas disease affects both humans and animals, such as dogs, cats, rodents, and wild mammals. The main mode of transmission is through the bite of an infected triatomine bug, also known as a kissing bug, which feeds on the blood of animals and humans. The parasite can also be transmitted through contaminated food or drink, blood transfusion, organ transplantation, mother-to-child transmission, and laboratory accidents.

Chagas disease is a major public health problem in Latin America, where it is endemic in 21 countries and affects about 6-7 million people. It is also an emerging threat in other regions of the world, such as North America, Europe, and Asia, due to increased population mobility and globalization. Globalization refers to the process of increasing interconnection and interdependence among countries, cultures, and people. Globalization can affect the transmission and distribution of Chagas disease in several ways:

– Migration: People who are infected with T. cruzi may migrate from endemic areas to non-endemic areas, where they can transmit the parasite to others or develop chronic complications of the disease. For example, it is estimated that there are about 300,000 people with Chagas disease living in the United States, mostly immigrants from Latin America.
– Travel: People who travel to endemic areas may become infected with T. cruzi through contact with triatomine bugs or contaminated food or drink. They may also carry the parasite back to their home countries and introduce it to new areas or populations. For example, several cases of Chagas disease have been reported in travelers from Europe and Asia who visited Latin America.
– Trade: The movement of goods and products across borders may facilitate the spread of triatomine bugs or T. cruzi-infected animals or organs. For example, some cases of Chagas disease have been linked to the consumption of imported acai juice or sugar cane juice contaminated with T. cruzi.
– Climate change: The changes in temperature, precipitation, vegetation, and land use associated with climate change may affect the distribution and behavior of triatomine bugs and their animal hosts. For example, some studies have suggested that warmer temperatures may increase the survival and reproduction of triatomine bugs and expand their geographic range.

The prevention and control of Chagas disease require a holistic approach that considers the interrelated factors that influence human, animal, and ecosystem health. This approach is known as One Health, which recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. Some of the strategies that can be implemented within a One Health framework include:

– Vector control: The elimination or reduction of triatomine bugs in human dwellings and peridomiciliary areas through insecticide spraying, environmental management, or housing improvement.
– Screening: The detection of T. cruzi infection in blood donors, organ donors, pregnant women, newborns, children, and high-risk groups through serological or molecular tests.
– Treatment: The administration of antiparasitic drugs (benznidazole or nifurtimox) to people who are infected with T. cruzi, especially in the acute phase or early chronic phase of the disease, to prevent or delay the development of complications.
– Surveillance: The monitoring of epidemiological trends, risk factors, vector distribution, animal reservoirs, and drug resistance of Chagas disease through integrated information systems and networks.
– Education: The promotion of awareness and knowledge about Chagas disease among health professionals, policymakers, communities, and travelers through communication campaigns, training programs, and social mobilization.

Chagas disease is a complex and neglected zoonotic disease that poses a significant burden on human and animal health worldwide. The global challenges posed by globalization and climate change require a coordinated and collaborative response that embraces a One Health perspective.


– World Health Organization (WHO). Chagas disease (also known as American trypanosomiasis). 2023. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/chagas-disease-%28american-trypanosomiasis%29
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chagas Disease. 2021. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas/index.html
– Cleveland Clinic. Chagas Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention. 2020. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21876-chagas-disease
– Wikipedia. Chagas disease. 2021. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chagas_disease

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