The New Aids?

Chagas Disease Considered To Be The New AIDS of the Americas. With 20 million people already affected by this tropical parasitic disease, the Chagas disease is likely to turn into a pandemic that will not be contained by the borders of Mexico, the United States or South America. In fact, the Chagas disease is considered to be the new AIDS of the Americas.

A report published in late May in journal PLoS made it clear that the Chagas disease is quite a big risk. Experts in tropical diseases discussed the disease and found several aspects that make Chagas very alike with HIV. Although it is mostly considered a risk for countries with numerous poor populations, the United States has its own share of Chagas cases. Texas seems to be most vulnerable as most of the 30,000 U.S. citizens suffering with Chagas live in southern Texas.

For the layperson, it’s likely the comparison tropical disease experts with Baylor College of Medicine in Texas made looks like a bit too much. But a brief look at the disease’s symptoms and rates of spreading is enough to understand why experts called the Chagas disease the new AIDS of the Americas.

The first official modern era case of Chagas disease was reported in early 1900s, but the kissing bug disease has been a threat for 9,000 years. A parasite, named Trypanosoma cruzi has been found as the cause of the Chagas disease. Once the parasite gets into the body, it begins multiplying within the cells and once the cells can’t contain them they are released into the bloodstream. The Chagas disease has two phases, but the chronic phase is the more serious as the infection can stay hidden for decades at a time. Although it evolves only in a third of patients, the chronic phase of the Chagas disease tends to be quite damaging, with cardiovascular and intestinal complications.

The report authors explained that there are “a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas diseased and people who contracted the [HIV/AIDS] in first two decades of the…epidemic”. Also, as the report reads, the “endemic Chagas diseases has emerged as an important health disparity in the America…As a result, we face a situation in both Latin America and the US that bears a resemblance to the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic”.

Chagas Disease vs AIDS: 6 Differences and 5 Similarities:

The condition known as Chagas disease has created a situation in the Americas that resembles the HIV/AIDS epidemic in its early years, one group of researchers argues.

“As with patients in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, most patients with Chagas disease do not have access to health care facilities,” or essential medications, the researchers, who are working on a vaccine for Chagas disease, write in the May issue of the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Both diseases are also stigmatizing, the researchers say. And for U.S. immigrants with Chagas disease living illegally in the United Status, immigration status can be an obstacle to receiving treatment, just as sexual orientation was a barrier to care for HIV/AIDS in the beginning of the epidemic, the researchers say.

6 differences

Chagas disease is caused by a parasite, specifically, a single-celled protozoan called Trypanosoma cruzi. HIV/AIDS is caused by a virus.

Chagas disease is typically transmitted to people from insects called triatomine bugs, or kissing bugs. These bugs carry the parasite, and transmit the disease when they bite. Because the parasite usually lives in another organism to being passed to a person, it is known as a vector-borne illness. HIV/AIDS is transmitted directly from person to person through sex, or sharing intravenous needles.

When Chagas disease develops into a chronic condition, it can affect the heart, intestine and esophagus. HIV/AIDS affects the body’s immune system.

HIV/AIDS is almost always fatal without treatment. Most people with Chagas disease (about 70 percent), do not develop chronic symptoms, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Although it’s uncommon, Chagas disease can be transmitted orally, when people consume food contaminated with fecal matter from triatomine bugs (this transmission has been documented in the Amazon). HIV/AIDS cannot be transmitted this way.

HIV/AIDS affects people all over the world, and the biggest burden is in Sub-Saharan Africa. Because triatomine bugs are currently found only in the Americas, disease transmission is limited to this region. The majority of people infected live in South America, Central America, or Mexico.

5 Similarities 

Both diseases have an acute phase, which occurs upon infection, and a chronic phase, which develops years later. Because both diseases may not have symptoms for many years, people can be infected and not know it.

Both Chagas disease and HIV/AIDS can be acquired from a blood transfusion.

Both diseases can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy.

Both disproportionably affect people living in poverty, according to the authors of the PLoS paper.

Both require prolonged treatment. For HIV/AIDS, the treatment is a lifetime, while for Chagas disease, the treatment, which includes drugs to kill the parasite, is given for one to three months and is most effective in the acute phases of the disease.

Pass it on: Chagas disease shares some characteristics with HIVS/AIDS, but the conditions also have important differences.

Sources: 1, 2, 3.


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