With 20 million people already affected by this tropical parasitic disease, the Chagas disease is likely to turn into a pandemic that will not be contained by the borders of Mexico, the United States or South America. In fact, the Chagas disease is considered to be the new AIDS of the Americas.
A report published in late May in journal PLoS made it clear that the Chagas disease is quite a big risk. Experts in tropical diseases discussed the disease and found several aspects that make Chagas very alike with HIV. Although it is mostly considered a risk for countries with numerous poor populations, the United States has its own share of Chagas cases. Texas seems to be most vulnerable as most of the 30,000 U.S. citizens suffering with Chagas live in southern Texas.
For the layperson, it’s likely the comparison tropical disease experts with Baylor College of Medicine in Texas made looks like a bit too much. But a brief look at the disease’s symptoms and rates of spreading is enough to understand why experts called the Chagas disease the new AIDS of the Americas.
The first official modern era case of Chagas disease was reported in early 1900s, but the kissing bug disease has been a threat for 9,000 years. A parasite, named Trypanosoma cruzi has been found as the cause of the Chagas disease. Once the parasite gets into the body, it begins multiplying within the cells and once the cells can’t contain them they are released into the bloodstream.
The Chagas disease has two phases, but the chronic phase is the more serious as the infection can stay hidden for decades at a time. Although it evolves only in a third of patients, the chronic phase of the Chagas disease tends to be quite damaging, with cardiovascular and intestinal complications.
The report authors explained that there are “a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas diseased and people who contracted the [HIV/AIDS] in first two decades of the…epidemic”. Also, as the report reads, the “endemic Chagas diseases has emerged as an important health disparity in the America…As a result, we face a situation in both Latin America and the US that bears a resemblance to the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic”.