A Chagas Disease Primer: Part 4

If you wish to read the Chagas’ Disease primer in order, click here to go to Part 1 and follow the links.

Acute Chagas’ Disease

When a person gets infected with T. cruzi, what happens? (Quick review: the patient has been bitten by a kissing bug, also known as an assassin bug. The bug defecated on the person it was biting, and the patient scratched the bite, smearing the bug poop–filled with parasites–into the wound)

The parasites–in the infective trypomastigote stage (see the life cycle diagram from Part 3)–entered the patients blood stream and began to multiply, causing the acute form of Chagas’ disease.

Symptoms of acute Chagas’ Disease

Getting acute Chagas’ Disease is sort of like the flu. If you were unlucky enough to get infected, you might get a mild case, to the point where it’s inapparent. On the other hand, you might get pretty sick. However, even if you do get pretty sick, chances are that you’ll recover.

The flu-like symptoms are typical: Fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea.

One  symptom of note is the chagoma, a swelling that occurs at the bite site. This is  not an influenza-like symptom, and can often be an important aid in diagnosis, especially in pediatric cases where the patient still hasn’t learned to speak or may be unaware of the bite (assassin bugs are strictly noctrnal). A chagoma that occurs over the eye is called Romaña’s sign. Because victims are often bit in bed, the face is a common site for bites to occur (thus the name “kissing bug”). Bug feces are capable of infecting through the conjunctiva as well as through breaks in the skin.

Romaña's Sign


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