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Chagas disease

Chagas disease is a Mammalian disease occurring only in the Americas.

It is caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, one of the kinetoplastid flagellates, transmitted to humans by triatomine insects (assassin bugs[?]) known in the different countries as vinchuca, kissing bug (Triatoma protracta), chipo etc.

The human disease occurs in two stages: the acute stage shortly after the infection and is usually mild fever and swelling around the bite area, 10-30 % of those bitten develop the chronic stage which appears after several years. The disease affects the nervous system and heart. Chronic infections result in various neurological disorders, including dementia, damage to the heart muscle, and sometimes digestive damage (megacolon[?] and megaesophagus). Left untreated, Chagas' disease can be fatal.

The disease was named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas[?] who first described it in 1910 but the disease was not seen as a major problem in humans until the 1960s. The disease currently affects 16-18 m people, killing around 20,000 annually and some 100 m are at risk of acquiring Chagas disease.

The disease causing agent, Trypanosoma cruzi, is closely related to that of African sleeping sickness, although the assisin bug vector is not closely related to the tsetse fly, which carries African sleeping sickness.

See also: achalasia

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