A Chagas’ Disease Primer: Part 1

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.

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9 responses to “A Chagas’ Disease Primer: Part 1

  1. I am a med student in my first year. I wanted to thank you for your blog in helping me understand a little more about chagas’ disease. I will be posting a link to this blog on my facebook page if you dont mind the exposure.

  2. Dr. Lerner, thank you for the informative post about Chagas disease. I am a biology student at the University of Texas Pan American in the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas. Last night I believe that I saw an “assassin bug” last night outside of my home near my front door. I am a little worried because I frequently sit outside at night on my porch and I get bitten by what I assumed to be ants or mosquitos. I’m concerned that I may have been bitten by this insect. I’m wondering if the bite from that bug would cause a rash, swelling, or any sign that it has bitten me. I’m actually very concerned. Also, TV personality Dr. Oz said in a recent show that there is no cure or treatment and that most people will die from chagas in about 20 years. I’m interested in your opinion about this and I’d like to know of any information you might know about the prevelance of this disease in my area. I looked for your email on this site, but cannot find it. Thank you so much.

  3. GOOD INFO, I GOT BITTEN BY A BLOOD SUCKING BUG ABOUT TWO WKS. AGO AND HAVE BEEN WEAK AND AT TIMES DIZZY WITH NO PEP WHAT SO EVER, DOES THE BITE HAVE ANY CONSEQUENCE FOR THIS? PLEASE ADVICE, HAD BLOOD TEST BUT IT CAME OUT OK. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGTS ON THIS? HELEN

  4. I was bitten twice night last by a kissing bug (I have it in a baggie, alive) and believe it was the same one that got me 4 days ago. Was hiding between the couch cushions. The bites are very swollen, hot, red and itchy – do I need to tell anyone?? Thanks, Rene’

  5. Hi Doc! I have some serious questions about a vector infestation. If you are willing to help please send me a private email. Thanks 🙂

  6. lol. I am so not this! —->

  7. Pingback: “Jings, Crivvens, Help ma Boab!” | East Side Patch

  8. This kissing bug was on my nightstand this morning. I have no signs of a bite. I do not have a spleen and I am very nervous. I have the bug still. I trapped in and have been sick for the last few days (before spotting the bug). I believe I brought from a hotel stay in St. George Utah. Please advise, thank you.

    • It is nearly impossible that you would get Chagas’ from this kissing bug. There have been less than a dozen cases of Chagas that were actually contracted in the US, and none of them were in Utah. Consult with your physician if you are still ill.

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