What Is Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease?
Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease which is also known by the name of American Trypanosomiasis is an infection which is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma Cruzi. This infection causes inflammatory skin changes and may also cause infection in the heart or the gastrointestinal tract. This disease basically has three phases, which are the Acute Phase in which there are very mild symptoms which may last for a couple of weeks; the Intermediate Phase which also has few mild symptoms, but it may last for close to 10 years or more; and the Chronic Phase the symptoms of which are observed after about 20 years with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe and also involving significant organ damage, especially the heart and the GI tract with the symptoms staying forever. In the United States, Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease is found in people who have stayed in a country where this disease has been prominent, although it is not common in the United States. The parasite causing Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease is transmitted into humans when a blood sucking bug called Triatromine bug bites. These bugs are also called as Kissing Bugs; hence the disease gets its name from these bugs. These bugs are usually found in Central or Latin America.
What Are The Risk Factors For Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease?
The major risk factor for Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease is staying in the area where this disease is prominent. These areas are basically impoverished like certain areas in Mexico or Latin America. A residential area where these “Kissing Bugs” are found aplenty puts the people in that area at risk for developing this disease. Another risk factor for contracting Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease is by blood transfusion especially in countries where this disease has been endemic.
What Are The Causes Of Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease?
As stated, Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma Cruzi. This parasite is transmitted to humans by the bite of a bug called Triatromine bugs. These bugs deposit the feces containing the parasites on human skin. The parasite then infiltrates the human body through the bite or through cuts or breaks in the skin. At times, these parasites may enter the body through the mouth or airway at the time of ingestion of food or inhalation of air. In some cases, these parasites get into the bloodstream and deposit themselves in different organs from where these parasites multiply and cause symptoms like cardiac failure, arrhythmias, inadequate gastrointestinal motility, and sometimes even death.
What Are The Symptoms Of Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease?
Some of the symptoms of Acute and Intermediate Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease are:
- Swelling with redness at the infection site on the skin
- Lymph node swelling
- Body pains
- Severe fatigue
- Hepatomegaly or splenomegaly
- Swelling of tissues around the eyes.
The symptoms of Chronic Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease depend on the organs that are affected due to the parasite and are:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Congestive heart failure
- Sudden death
- Abdominal pain
- Dilated colon
How Is Chagas Disease Or Kissing Bug Disease Diagnosed?
The acute phase of Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease is extremely difficult to diagnose unless the affected individual has a history of staying in places where this disease has been prevalent, as the symptoms produced by this phase of the disease are quite nonspecific. If Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease stays undiagnosed for long then it may progress to the chronic phase affecting various organs of the body. In order to diagnose Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease, there are several types of blood tests available, majority of which depend on the production of antibodies against the parasites. A microscopic examination of blood smears may also identify the offending parasites. Most of the times, this disease is diagnosed by blood donation and hence people donating blood are screened with the ELISA assay which can confirm the presence of parasites. Some of the other tests for confirming the diagnosis of Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease are:
- Holter Monitor
- Esophageal manometry
- Gastrointestinal motility.
What Are The Treatments For Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease?
The treatment for Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease depends on the stage of the disease and the age of the patient. The best way of treating Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease is by killing the parasite causing the disease. This is done by antiparasitic medications namely Ragonil and Lampit. These medications either kill the parasite or reduce their numbers significantly thus relieving symptoms.
What Is The Prognosis For Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease?
Generally, the overall prognosis for Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease is extremely good for individuals who are diagnosed and treated in the acute phase of the disease. Individuals who go on to the chronic phase of the disease have a guarded prognosis due to the adverse affect the parasite causes to the heart and other vitals organs of the body.
What Are The Complications Of Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease?
Maximum complications due to Chagas Disease or Kissing Bug Disease are observed in the chronic phase of the disease. Some of the complications are:
- Muscle atrophy
- Heart failure
- Esophageal enlargement
- Colon enlargement.
These complications are quite serious and can cause severe weakness, dysphagia, severe abdominal pain, and sometimes even death.