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Chapter 76 – American Trypanosomiasis (Chagas' Disease)

Michael A. Miles


American trypanosomiasis, which results from infection with the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, is justly referred to as Chagas' disease in homage to the great discoveries of the Brazilian scientist, Carlos Chagas. In 1907, Carlos Chagas left the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro to work at Lassance in the state of Minas Gerais as a malaria control officer. The local inhabitants who lived in poor-quality housing complained that they were attacked at night by a large blood-sucking insect, the triatomine bug (Hemiptera, Reduviidae). Carlos Chagas immediately suspected that such blood-sucking insects might transmit a human infectious disease. He collected examples of the bug (Panstrongylus megistus; Figure 76.1) and found abundant protozoan flagellates in the bug faeces. He sent specimens of the insect back to Rio de Janeiro, to his mentor, Oswaldo Cruz. Marmosets exposed to infected bugs developed a circulating …