Most people might not be familiar with Chagas disease but they might recognize the disease after hearing its common term, the “kissing bug“.
Kissing bugs not only kiss your skin when they land on it. They will bring out their suction tubes at the end of their mouth and stick them into your skin to suck on your blood.
Their bites are virtually painless which are why kissing bugs are barely noticeable. But don’t rest on this because kissing bugs are known to transmit Chagas disease. This disease can cause chronic neurological disorders and serious heart and digestive system damages.
The disease is endemic in Latin America and it affects almost 10 million people. It affects other countries even if it is not endemic in their places such as the United States and Spain.
It is worth noting that a large part of the disease incidence occurs in rural areas where the breeding and feeding ground of the vector insect are available.
Trypanosome cruzi is the causative agent of Chagas disease. It is a parasitic protozoan that lives inside different animals such as raccoons, squirrels, mice, wood rats, and opossums.
But, it is also found out that even domestic animals such as dogs, cats, and cows can also be a reservoir for T. cruzi. As a result, the disease is even made more rampant.
The carrier of T. cruzi is the kissing bug. The bug feeds both in animals and humans. When it sucks blood from an infected host, the kissing bug can transfer T.cruzi to other animals.
But when it comes to humans, the kissing bug is attracted to bite on the face of its victim then after it is done in sucking blood; it will defecate on the fresh wound it made, thus passing on the parasite.
Signs and Symptoms
There are two phases of Chagas disease in humans. The first one is the acute phase. This may last for many weeks or even months.
The acute phase may last for too long because it is asymptomatic at first. Even when the disease’s manifestations start to surface, it is only mild and most will just ignore how they feel.
The following are some of the manifestations of the acute phase:
- Inflamed face originating from the bite site
- Pyrosis (fever)
- An itchy or non-itchy rash
- Body pain
- Headache, nausea, vomiting
- Splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen)
- Liver enlargement
The acute phase commonly subsides by itself and the body is capable of fighting the disease.
But sometimes, other factors might lead to the chronic phase. If the body is already weak when the Chagas disease develops, there is a high tendency that the affected person with proceeding to the chronic phase. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Myocardial inflammation or enlargement
- Heart failure
- Cardiac arrest
- Enlargement of the esophagus
- Enlarged colon
When the disease is not resolved promptly, it can lead to death. Every year, around 20,000 deaths are caused by Chagas disease.