First World Chagas Disease Day

Let's make Chagas Disease visible now

14.04.2020 - On April 14, the global community commemorated the first World Chagas Disease Day. One of the aims is to raise the visibility and public awareness of people with Chagas Disease and the resources needed for the prevention, control or elimination of the disease.

The team of the Munich Tropical Institute during consultations at the WHO (copyright: LMU University Hospital)

It was on this date, April 14, in 1909 that the first patient, a Brazilian girl named Berenice Soares de Moura, was diagnosed for this disease by Dr Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas. Chagas disease, also called American trypanosomiasis, has been termed as a “silent and silenced disease”, not only because of its slowly progressing and frequently asymptomatic clinical course but also because it affects mainly poor people who have no political voice or access to health care.

Chagas disease (CD) is a highly complex parasitic disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi). An estimated 6 - 7 million people are infected worldwide mostly in Latin American countries. Through migration this disease has also expanded to non-endemic countries like Germany and is considered an international health problem. CD may be the most neglected tropical disease as it is estimated that only 1% of the affected population has access to adequate screening, diagnosis, and eventually treatment.

Once endemic in Latin American countries, Chagas disease is now present in many others, making it a global health problem.

There are many ongoing activities at the Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at the LMU University Hospital Munich, led by Jessica Guggenbühl, Julian Ulrich, and PD Dr. Michael Pritsch: A screening algorithm as well as a research project on blood donors has been implemented together with the Bavarian Red Cross in order to stop transfusional transmission of CD.

The researchers also coordinate the development of German guidelines for screening, diagnosis, and treatment of CD in order to improve clinical care. A retrospective analysis of nearly two decade of CD in Germany that is currently being published clearly shows suboptimal care in Germany. Several ongoing research projects in the so-called Bolivian Chaco focus on areas with the highest burden of CD worldwide. Our team at the Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine also advises their colleagues from the Helmholtz Center in translational aspects of drug development for CD and the WHO on CD in Germany.

More information about our team’s work in the field of Chagas Disease and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) will follow soon.

View more about World Chagas Disease Day (WHO Website)