Sunday, 27 August 2017



When Lara's daddy developed heart failure at just 52, many people were surprised. The man had always been healthy and fit. He never missed his time in the gym every weekend. At the very least, if he was to fall sick, one would expect it to be something that didn’t have to do with the heart. Health practitioners after all say good diet and constant exercise keeps the heart in good shape. Lara's father definitely was a rare occurrence, not for one whose nutrition consisted of mainly fruits and vegetables. Coupled with the constant exercise, it did come as a shock when his wife found him slumped in his study and the paramedics that came to see to him when they called the ambulance said he had heart failure. Their questions had finally been put to rest at the hospital. According to the doctor, he has Chagas disease and the disease in many people shows just mild symptoms for years before finally resorting to heart failure. Of course, this brings the question of what Chagas disease is.

What is Chagas disease?
Chagas disease is also known as American trypanosomiasis. It got its name from the Brazilian physician Carlos R. J. Chagas, who first described the disease in man in 1909. It is a tropical parasitic disease caused by an infection with the parasite called, "Trypanosoma cruzi." The parasite is mainly found in the blood sucking insect called, "kissing bug." The insects feed on the blood of humans and other mammals and deposits the infected faeces. One could also contact it by breaks in the skin, blood transfusion, organ transplant, a mother to a foetus or eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated drinks.
The disease is usually found in countries in Southern America and States in the Southern and South-western United States.
Apart from the kissing bug, it is also found in animals such as opossums, raccoons, armadillos, squirrels, woodrats, and mice.

Symptoms of Chagas disease
Surprisingly, the symptoms vary but it is a life-long disease. One distinct thing about Chagas disease is that the symptoms encounter changes over the years and the course of the infection. Initially, the symptoms are very mild and sometimes inexistent in some people. About eight to twelve weeks later, some experience more chronic symptoms and some still do not feel any further symptoms while some feel nothing further for 30 to 40 years later. But generally, the symptoms include; headache, fever, mild swelling at the place the insect bit, swollen nymph nodes, enlargement of the heart ventricles which leads to heart failure in some individuals or an enlargement of the oesophagus or colon in about ten per cent of infected persons.

It is difficult diagnosing this disease, especially early when it should have been detected. Diseases are usually easier to cure or treated when they are detected and tackled early. But the fact that the early symptoms are usually mild, many live with the disease without doing anything about it or it could be wrongly diagnosed as something else.
Early diagnosis can be done by finding the parasite in the blood using microscope because of the size of the parasite.
When it is chronic and more severe, it can be diagnosed by finding the antibodies of the parasite in the blood.

We would probably want to have a more elaborate of preventing the disease considering we all know prevention is better than cure. It is no cliché. Curing a disease is always more strenuous than preventing. But like other diseases transmitted by insects carrying parasites, it might be more difficult to prevent if one live in an area where they are found in large numbers. Just like for instance, sub-Saharan Africa is still battling with malaria due to the high number of mosquitoes found in the area. Be that as it may, we cannot afford to fold our hands either. So, to prevent Chagas disease, the best bet is to protect oneself from being bitten by the kissing bug and other animals carrying the parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi. And for the case of blood transfusion, screening blood properly before transfusion.

The problem of this disease is the ignorance of many of the infected persons and in most cases, it is not their fault especially as we have already established that the disease does not show any sign to the victims and even when it does, it is usually mild and so many people live with it for years without knowing. And we have also already established that diseases are easier to deal with when they are detected early.
However, for cases detected early, they could be treated with medication benznidazole or nifurtimox. In many cases, the early detection cures them completely of the disease.
The disease becomes harder to treat if it is not early enough. In chronic cases, what it does instead usually is delay or prevents or reduces the end symptoms.

Benznidazole or nifurtimox has been recorded to have side effects in up to 40% of the infected cases. It causes digestive disorders, skin disorder and even brain toxicity.


Post a Comment