A disease like AIDS is scary enough by itself but what about a disease that can be just as deadly and is transmitted by insects, that disease is called Chagas and researchers are warning that its being quickly spread throughout the Americas, much in the same pattern as the early HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Chagas is caused by parasites carried by blood-sucking insects and so far more than 8 million people in the Americas have been infected, including people in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and Bolivia. It is also suspected that nearly 300,000 people in the United States, mostly immigrants, also carry the Chagas parasite.
Once infected many patients never know they have Chagas because symptoms never form for 75% of patients, however the remaining 25% can develop fatally enlarged hearts or intestines which can ultimately lead to a painful and unexpected death.
Aside from a simple animal bite Chagas can be transmitted in blood transfusions. According to researchers in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, like the AIDS virus, Chagas, also known as American trypanosomiasis, has a long incubation time, is hard if not impossible to cure and because it is a “disease of the poor” little money is spent on prevention or finding new treatments.
It’s not as if Chagas is a new parasite, some researchers believe a bug that bit Charles Darwin gave him the disease which eventually led to his death, how’s that for survival of the fittest.
While not quite the same as the AIDS virus which effects a larger number of people once inside their blood stream, Chagas is following a similarly scary pattern of infection and with its easier to transmit capabilities it could grow into an epidemic. Just take a look at the Central American bug Rhodnius Priloxius (shown above), that little insect is the main spreader of Chagas in Central America, proving that it doesn’t take much to spread the potentially deadly disease to one in four people it attacks.