In Argentina, at least one and a half million people are infected with Chagas, a potentially life threatening disease caused by a parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi. There are several contagion paths: the most frequent are conenose (kissing) bugs and blood transfusions.
However, thanks to the progress made to vector and transfusion control, one of the most frequent transmission patterns at present is the vertical or congenital path, i.e. an infected mother transmitting Chagas to her child during pregnancy.
This contagion form is growing dramatically and it already represents about 40% of the cases. Every year, 9,000 babies are born infected in the world, or one every hour. In Argentina it is estimated that they are some 1,300 to 1,500, but only one third of them get diagnosed.
With the objective that by 2030 every baby born with the disease may be treated and cured, as well as all childbearing age females may have access to diagnosis and treatment, Fundación Mundo Sano launched the “Not A Single Baby With Chagas” campaign, which has taken over a commitment to give visibility to the disease.
“Not even today do patients get their diagnosis. This must be changed and can be changed. The campaign focuses on the baby because an infected mother may transmit the disease to her child during pregnancy and we think that this must be the first thing to be changed; we have to end mother-to-child transmission,” said to PERFIL Silvia Gold, president of Mundo Sano Foundation.
In Argentina, the Chagas test is mandated by law for pregnant women. But it is not always done or when it is done, the mother does not receive sufficient information on what to do if the test results positive and how to gain access to treatment. “Chagas is a disease that goes silent for a long time, but when it finally evolves, it becomes a very severe illness. Early diagnosis is equal to prevention,” Gold added.
The campaign seeks to have all childbearing age women screened, diagnosed and treated before their first pregnancy. To this end, work is being done to make gynecologist doctors indicate the diagnostic test, a simple blood test. “Ana was going to inherit her mom’s Chagas. Was, but she did not, because before becoming pregnant, her mom decided to get treatment and got cured. This is why now, Ana will inherit her mother’s smile, her eyes, but not Chagas,” the campaign spot tells.
Chagas disease may be treated with benznidazol, and also with nifurtimox, both drugs that kill the parasite. Both medications are effective, at almost 100%, for the cure of the disease if administered at the very beginning of the acute phase, even in cases of congenital transmission. Las year, the Anmat approved a pediatric formulation of benznidazol.