Disordered gut motor activity is a feature of patients with Chagas' disease: colonic involvement leads to the development of megacolon and symptoms of constipation. Interstitial cells of Cajal are thought to modulate gut motility. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that there is an abnormality of the density of distribution of interstitial cells of Cajal in Chagasic megacolon. Interstitial cells of Cajal were identified by immunohistochemistry using an anti-c-kit antibody. Six patients with Chagasic megacolon were compared with normal controls. The density of distribution of interstitial cells of Cajal was assessed in the longitudinal and circular muscle layers, and in the intermuscular plane of the Chagasic and normal colon. Statistical analysis was performed using Fisher's exact test. The interstitial cells of Cajal density in Chagasic megacolon was much reduced in comparison to normal colonic tissue in the longitudinal muscle layer (P=0.0084), intermuscular plane (P<0.0001), and circular muscle layer (P=0.0051). The lack of interstitial cells of Cajal may play a role in the pathophysiology of the disease, leading to the development of megacolon and symptoms of constipation.