Chagas disease

Chagas disease

Chagas disease is a parasitic infection that spreads through insect bites . This disease can cause swelling in the area that is bitten by insects, up to disturbances in the digestive system and the heart.

Chagas disease is also called American trypanosomiasis . This is because Chagas disease is more prevalent in Central and South American countries. Until now, there have been no reports of Chagas disease in Indonesia.

Causes of Chagas Disease

Chagas disease is caused by the infection of the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi , which is transmitted through the bite of the kissing bug ( Triatomine ) . This parasite enters the body through the eyes, mouth, or open wounds, one of which is caused by an insect bite.

A person can also be infected with Chagas disease when:

  • Obtaining a blood transfusion or organ donation from a Chagas disease sufferer
  • Consuming food contaminated with kissing bug feces
  • Explore the forest or area where many wild animals are infected with this disease

It should be noted that pregnant women who are infected with Chagas disease can also transmit this disease to their fetuses.

Symptoms of Chagas Disease

Chagas disease can cause mild to severe symptoms. The symptoms can appear suddenly and briefly (acute), or last for a long time (chronic). Here is the explanation:

Acute phase

The acute phase of Chagas disease can last for several weeks or months. In some cases, the acute phase does not cause symptoms. If it appears, the symptoms can be:

  • Swelling in the part bitten by an insect
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Tired or weak
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the liver or spleen

Symptoms of Chagas disease in the acute phase generally disappear on their own. However, in some cases, an untreated infection can develop into a chronic phase.

Chronic phase

Symptoms of chronic phase Chagas disease can appear 10-20 years after being infected with this disease. Complaints that can occur include:

  • Stomachache
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Heart rhythm disorders
  • Heart failure
  • Sudden cardiac arrest

When should you go to the doctor?

Check with a doctor if you experience symptoms of Chagas disease in the acute phase, especially if you are traveling to an endemic area or have just been bitten by an insect. Early treatment can reduce the risk of Chagas disease progressing to the chronic phase.

Immediately check yourself with a doctor if you experience symptoms of chronic phase Chagas disease. If treated as soon as possible, the risk of complications can be avoided.

In some cases, Chagas disease can also cause inflammation of the heart muscle ( myocarditis ), or heart membrane ( pericarditis ). See a doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of shortness of breath and chest pain.

Diagnosis of Chagas Disease

The doctor will ask questions related to symptoms, travel history, illnesses that have been suffered before, and medications that are being consumed. After that the doctor will do a physical examination.

If the patient is suspected of suffering from Chagas disease, the doctor will suggest the patient to do a blood test to detect the T. cruzi parasite and see the body's response to the infection. The doctor will also perform other examinations, such as:

  • Electrocardiography ( EKG ), to check the electrical activity of the heart
  • Chest X-ray, to see the condition of the heart and lungs
  • Ultrasound of the heart or echocardiography , to see the work of the heart in pumping blood
  • Endoscopy , to detect abnormalities in the digestive tract

Treatment of Chagas Disease

The treatment of Chagas disease aims to eradicate the parasite and alleviate the symptoms that arise as a result of the parasite infection. The doctor will give antiparasitic medicine, such as benznidazole or nifurtimox, to be consumed for 2 months.

It should be noted that the above medicines are effective in overcoming Chagas disease in the acute phase. While in the chronic phase, the drug cannot cure Chagas disease, but it can slow down the progression of the disease and prevent complications.

Complications of Chagas Disease

Chagas disease that has developed into chronic and is not treated well can cause serious complications, such as:

  • Heart failure
  • Enlargement of the esophagus or esophagus (megaesophagus)
  • Intestinal enlargement (megacolon)

To overcome these complications, actions that can be taken by the doctor include:

  • Recommend lifestyle changes
  • Prescribe medicines
  • Installing a pacemaker
  • Perform operational actions
  • Perform heart transplant procedures

Prevention of Chagas Disease

Until now, there is no specific vaccine to prevent Chagas disease. However, there are several ways that can be done to reduce the risk of T. cruzi parasite transmission , namely:

  • Install a mosquito net on the bed
  • Use mosquito repellent lotion
  • Maintain food hygiene and storage
  • Sealing holes in the house that can become an entryway for insects
  • Perform regular checkups during pregnancy
Back to blog