Chagas disease has been an epidemic plaguing Mexico, Central America and South America. It affects between eight to 11 million people worldwide. Chagas disease is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.
It is transmitted by an insect also known as the “kissing bug,” because they are inclined to biting people on the lips. Though, frequently known to be transmitted by the kissing bug, Virginia has reported its first case of Chagas Disease transmitted through congenital transfusion.
In August 2010, a new born was delivered by a 31-year-old woman from Bolivia. Although the mother reported no signs of any preexisting medical condition, she failed to inform doctors that she had been diagnosed with Chagas disease before her migration to the states. The mother disclosed she has not received antitrypanosomal treatment during her pregnancy in Bolivia. Following this new information, physicians examined the child’s blood. Through blood tests, it was discovered the boy’s blood displayed T. cruzi trypomastigotes, the extracellular form of the parasite. Both the anti–T. cruzi antibodies and T. cruzi PCR were positive.
Prior to testing positive of Chagas disease the boy had been administered acyclovir for herpes, ampicillin and gentamicin for five days for presumed sepsis. However, not too long after, he was then prescribed a 60-day course of benznidazole to treat the Chagas disease.
Ten months following his diagnosis, the boy's symptoms have improved and when physicians administered a follow-up test he was negative for the parasite.
Though benznidazole is not yet legal in the United States, it is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC expressed they have “limited knowledge” of the disease but is increasing its awareness, especially among those who monitor pregnant woman from Mexico, Central America and South America. While the disease is severe, the CDC reports if treated in the first few weeks of life, there is a cure rate of more than 90 percent.
Chagas disease has no specific signs and may show little to no symptoms.