As Chagas’ Disease is rather unknown here in the Northern Latitudes, this blog has decided that it’s time to give our readers (assuming that we have any) a good background on this malady. It’s our goal to get Chagas’ Disease–with anywhere from 8 to 15 million persons infected–the attention that it deserves.
What is Chagas’?
Chagas’ Disease is infection with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. T. cruzi is a protozoan parasite, meaning it’s a single-celled eukaryotic pathogen, as opposed to the worms (like tapeworms and roundworms) and insects (like fleas, lice and ticks ) that we normally think of. Think more of malaria ( a protist that infects the liver and red blood cells) , amoebic dysentery, or cryptosporidiosis.
Like malaria (but unlike amoebic dysentery or cryptosporidiosis), Chagas’ Disease is a vector-borne disease. The vector in Chagas’ disease is a bug, commonly known as a kissing bug (because it often bites its sleeping victims on the face) or an assassin bug (the name we clearly prefer on this blog).
Parasitic diseases generally rank highest on the gross-out scale, above viruses, bacteria, and fungal infections.While the manifestation of clinical Chagas’ Disease isn’t as outwardly repulsive as, say, Guinea worm, its mode of transmission is. Stay tuned for Part II.