Chagas disease is named after Carlos Chagas, the pioneer researcher who first described it in 1909 (Chagas, 1909). Existing only on the American continent, the disease is caused by a flagellate parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, and is primar- ily transmitted to humans by blood-sucking triatomine bugs and by blood transfusion. Chagas disease has two successive phases, acute and chronic. The acute phase lasts 6?8 weeks. Once the acute phase subsides, most of the infected patients recover an apparent healthy status, where no organ damage can be demonstrated by the current standard methods of clinical diagnosis. The infection can only be veri- fied by serological or parasitological tests. This form of the chronic phase of Chagas disease is called indeterminate form. Most patients remain in this form of the disease. However, after several years of the chronic phase, 20?35% of the infected individuals, depending on the geographical area, will develop irreversible lesions of the autonomous nervous system in the heart, esophagus, colon, and peripheral nervous system. The chronic phase lasts the rest of the life of the infected individual. Chagas disease represents the first cause of cardiac lesions in young, economically productive adults in the endemic countries in Latin America. Thanks to a coordinated multicountry program in the Southern Cone countries, the transmission of Chagas disease by vectors and by blood transfusion was inter- rupted in Uruguay in 1997, in Chile in 1999, and in Brazil in 2006.
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