Chagas' heart disease

Clin Cardiol. 2000 Dec;23(12):883-9. doi: 10.1002/clc.4960231205.


Chagas' disease is caused by a protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, that is transmitted to humans through the feces of infected bloodsucking insects in endemic areas of Latin America, or occasionally by nonvectorial mechanisms, such as blood transfusion. Cardiac involvement, which typically appears decades after the initial infection, may result in cardiac arrhythmias, ventricular aneurysm, congestive heart failure, thromboembolism, and sudden cardiac death. Between 16 and 18 million persons are infected in Latin America. The migration of infected Latin Americans to the United States or other countries where the disease is uncommon poses two problems: the misdiagnosis or undiagnosis of Chagas' heart disease in these immigrants and the possibility of transmission of Chagas' disease through blood transfusions. Diagnosis is based on positive serologic tests and the clinical features. The antiparasitic drug, benznidazole, is effective when given for the initial infection and may also be beneficial for the chronic phase. The use of amiodarone, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and pacemaker implantation may contribute to a better survival in selected patients with cardiac involvement of chronic Chagas' disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Protozoan / isolation & purification
  • Chagas Cardiomyopathy* / diagnosis
  • Chagas Cardiomyopathy* / physiopathology
  • Chagas Cardiomyopathy* / therapy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Endemic Diseases
  • Humans
  • Latin America
  • Trypanosoma cruzi / immunology


  • Antigens, Protozoan