Chagas disease is the clinical condition triggered by infection with the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. The infection is transmitted by triatomine insects while blood feeding on a human host. Field studies predict that one third of an estimated 18 million T cruzi-infected humans in Latin America will die of Chagas disease. Acute infections are usually asymptomatic, but the ensuing chronic T cruzi infections have been associated with high ratios of morbidity and mortality: Chagas heart disease leads to unexpected death in 37.5% of patients, 58% develop heart failure and die and megacolon or megaoesophagus has been associated with death in 4.5%. The pathogenesis of Chagas disease appears to be related to a parasite-induced mutation of the vertebrate genome. Currently, treatment is unsatisfactory.
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