One and a half million Argentine people have Chagas. Every year, 1,500 babies are born with the disease in our nation. One every 6 hours.
Seeking to reduce this figure, a global campaign is launched to shed light on the issue.
The “NotASingleBabyWithChagas” campaign is aimed at childbearing age females because the most frequent transmission of the disease is the vertical or congenital one, i.e., the case where the mother transmits it to her baby during pregnancy.
As a matter of fact, the Pediatric Society of Argentina (SAP) warned in a recent report that perinatal transmission -during pregnancy and at the time of delivery- is growing now, representing about 4 out of every 10 new cases. They also pointed out that only 30% of them get detected.
“This is a visibility campaign. We believe that the time has come to give society a widespread, simple and clear message. The request is to share it so that it gets to be known by patients and physicians. This disease has to come into the light,“ said to Clarín Silvia Gold, president of Mundo Sano, the entity behind this initiative.
They have launched an emotional video which aims to produce an impact in just one and a half minute. The video tells the story of Ana, a baby who would inherit her mom’s Chagas disease. “Would, but did not, because before she became pregnant, her mom decided to get the treatment and was cured,“ the voice over tells.
In addition to the TV commercial, the campaign has set up a website Ningunbebeconchagas.com (NotASingleBabyWithChagas), where a commitment to the 2030 goal can be undersigned. The campaign also invites to share on social media the #NotASingleBabyWithChagas hashtag.
The campaign’s purpose is that by 2030 all babies born with the disease may receive treatment and be cured, and also, that all childbearing age females may have access to diagnosis and treatment.
“We are persuaded that a change has occurred in the history of Chagas disease. We have an optimistic outlook, we believe that significant advances have been made,” Gold tells. “Nowadays there is a scenario where the medication is available and so are directions on what to do with the patient,” she adds.
“Patient treatment guides have been published for a while. This matter was widely discussed during the history of Chagas disease. Does it have to be treated? Does it have not to be treated? Today the guide has been published by the Pan American Health Organization and the Health Ministry of Argentina published it as a resolution last March“, Gold said.
The campaign points out that before becoming pregnant, women should undergo the necessary treatment so that when they get pregnant, they do not transmit their infection to their babies.
There are two drugs for treatment in Argentina: benznidazol and nifurtimox. There is a program of the Ministry of Health under which they are delivered to all patients for free.
Children born with the infection must also receive treatment. For several months now, benznidazol pills have been approved and available in Argentina to all babies with positive diagnosis.
How it is diagnosed
The infection may be diagnosed during pregnancy. Diagnosis is obtained by means of the test for Chagas on a laboratory blood specimen. In Argentina, it is mandatory under the law. “The tests are conducted, but not in 100% of the cases. In public hospitals compliance rates at 70%,“ says Gold, and adds that the test is covered by social health care organizations.
“Most physicians indicate the screening test, but occasionally one may miss it. Our dissemination campaigns are aimed at making women ask for it. Also, when taking laboratory results to her physician, they have to learn to insist in asking: ‘Doctor, have I resulted positive in the Chagas test? What should I do now? Am I going to be treated?’,“ she recommends.
An urban disease
Chagas is a disease caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasite transmitted by conenose (kissing) bugs, insects that feed on vertebrate blood.
Conenose bugs mainly colonize rural and suburban areas. But migration flows have turned Chagas into an urban disease: the majority of infected individuals now reside in cities.
At world level, 9,000 babies are born with the infection every year, one every hour, and most of them have no access to diagnosis and treatment.
Today 8 million people in the world live with Chagas, out of which 1.2 million are childbearing age females.
In Argentina, there are approximately 7 million people at risk of getting Chagas, 1.6 million infected individuals and 1.300 babies are born with the disease every year, according to WHO/PAHO data.