Really, though, the only similarity between Chagas disease and AIDS is that they’re both hard to detect and neither of them can be cured.
Unlike AIDS, which is spread sexually, Chagas is a tropical disease spread by insects.
More than 8 million people have been infected by Chagas disease, most of them in Latin and Central America – but more than 300,000 live in the United States.
The new editorial, published by the Public Library of Science‘s Neglected Tropical Diseases, said the spread of the disease is not that dissimilar from the early years of HIV.
“There are a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas disease and people living with HIV/AIDS,” the authors wrote, “particularly for those with HIV/AIDS who contracted the disease in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
Both diseases tend to affect people living in poverty, both are chronic conditions requiring prolonged treatment, and – as with patients in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic – “most patients with Chagas disease do not have access to health care facilities.”
Chagas disease is also known as American trypanosomiasis, because the bugs carry single-celled parasites called trypanosomes.
When the bugs ingest your blood, they excrete the parasite at the same time. When you scratch the itch, the parasite moves into the wound and you become infected.
While only 20 percent of those infected with Chagas disease ever develop a life-threatening form of the disease, it can be hard or nearly impossible to sure.
About 25 percent of its victims will eventually develop enlarged hearts or intestines, which can fail or burst, causing sudden death. Treatment involves harsh drugs taken for up to three months – and it only works if the disease is caught early.
“The problem is once the heart symptoms start, which is the most dreaded complication—the Chagas cardiomyopathy—the medicines no longer work very well,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine. “Problem No. 2: the medicines are extremely toxic.”
Freaked out yet? More in the video below.
- Chagas Disease Becoming ‘New Aids’ Of The Americas (inquisitr.com)
- McKenna on Chagas disease (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Scientists: Chagas disease is the ‘new HIV/AIDS’ (rawstory.com)