Similar to its cousin T. brucei, T. cruzi is a single celled insect borne parasite. T. cruzi is known as the American trypanosomiasis because it is found in Mexico, Central America and South America. More recently, the kissing bug has migrated to North America and it is potentially only a matter of time until T. cruzi sets up as a major player of infectious disease in the United States. However, it is most often termed Chagas disease in recognition of the physician Carlos Chagas who discovered the disease in 1909.
Chagas disease is most commonly transmitted by the feces of the “kissing” bug in endemic areas. After contacting the parasite, disease progression for Chagas disease has two major forms. The acute phase is the first form in which most symptoms are mild and may not point to a diagnosis of Chagas disease. However, there is a symptom known as Romaña’s sign which may appear. Romaña’s sign is a swelling of the eye near the initial infection site or where the feces was accidently rubbed into it.
Then after the period of acute infection the parasite goes into a chronic dormancy phase and the patient is apparently cured. But this is generally not the case. Many years may pass and no complications will arise during this period. Some will die of old age before Chagas disease has a chance to emerge. Or in the case of some individuals, the parasite will manifest as heart and/or intestinal complications and may lead to death.
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