altona supports fighting Chagas disease with PCR test kit
On the 14th of April is World Chagas Disease Day. Chagas is a neglected tropical disease and is endemic in about 21 countries in the Americas. It is vector-borne and caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan parasite. T. cruzi is mainly transmitted via kissing bugs.
Worldwide about 6–7 million people are currently infected with T. cruzi. The disease is curable, when diagnosed early but can be life threatening if it remains undetected. Since 70-80% of infections remain asymptomatic, testing is essential to fight Chagas disease.
With the RealStar® Chagas PCR Kit 1.0 altona Diagnostics provides an in vitro diagnostic test for the qualitative detection of Trypanosoma cruzi specific DNA.
Our Argentine subsidiary, altona Diagnostics Argentina, provides direct on-site support for implementation of the test into the routine use in medical laboratories, if needed.
Chagas disease is named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, who diagnosed the first case of the disease in 1909. Chagas was able to prove that the disease was caused by T. cruzi and found that blood-sucking triatomine bugs or kissing bugs serve as vectors of this parasite. T. cruzi is transmitted to humans primarily through the bugs' feces or urine, which are smeared into the bite wound, eyes, or mouth. Oral infections through consumption of food contaminated with the feces of infected bugs are possible. In addition, the parasite can be transmitted through blood transfusions from an infected donor and congenitally from the mother to child.
In the course of Chagas disease, an acute phase is followed by a chronic phase. During the initial acute phase, which lasts about two months, patients usually show no symptoms at all or only mild symptoms. These are rather unspecific and may include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, skin rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. The disease can be cured by eliminating the parasites from patients with antiparasitic medication if treatment begins early after infection. However, because the symptoms are mild and nonspecific, the disease often goes undiagnosed. Therefore, Chagas is often referred to as a silent disease. If left untreated, the parasites can remain in the body for years, leading to chronic disease. Chronic Chagas disease can cause cardiac and gastrointestinal complications that can be life-threatening. Worldwide, Chagas disease causes about 12,000 deaths per year.
The prevalence of Chagas disease is often high in regions with poor living conditions. In these areas, vector control can help reduce the number of Chagas cases. Due to urbanization and migration, the disease is also prevalent in urban areas. Specific laboratory diagnostics is critical for early diagnosis and successful treatment.
Stopping the spread of the disease requires multipronged actions. Vector control, screening of blood donations and organ transplants, and prevention of congenital infections, by screening pregnant women and their newborns, is critical in limiting the global burden of Chagas disease.