Epidemiology of Chagas disease in non-endemic countries: the role of international migration

Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2007 Oct 30;102 Suppl 1:75-85. doi: 10.1590/s0074-02762007005000093.


Human infection with the protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi extends through North, Central, and South America, affecting 21 countries. Most human infections in the Western Hemisphere occur through contact with infected bloodsucking insects of the triatomine species. As T. cruzi can be detected in the blood of untreated infected individuals, decades after infection took place; the infection can be also transmitted through blood transfusion and organ transplant, which is considered the second most common mode of transmission for T. cruzi. The third mode of transmission is congenital infection. Economic hardship, political problems, or both, have spurred migration from Chagas endemic countries to developed countries. The main destination of this immigration is Australia, Canada, Spain, and the United States. In fact, human infection through blood or organ transplantation, as well as confirmed or potential cases of congenital infections has been described in Spain and in the United States. Estimates reported here indicates that in Australia in 2005-2006, 1067 of the 65,255 Latin American immigrants (16 per 1000) may be infected with T. cruzi, and in Canada, in 2001, 1218 of the 131,135 immigrants (9 per 1000) whose country of origin was identified may have been also infected. In Spain, a magnet for Latin American immigrants since the 2000, 6141 of 38,777 to 339,954 [corrected] legal immigrants in 2003 (25 per 1000), could be infected. In the United States, 56,028 to 357,205 of the 7,20 million, legal immigrants (8 to 50 per 1000), depending on the scenario, from the period 1981-2005 may be infected with T. cruzi. On the other hand, 33,193 to 336,097 of the estimated 5,6 million undocumented immigrants in 2000 (6 to 59 per 1000) could be infected. Non endemic countries receiving immigrants from the endemic ones should develop policies to protect organ recipients from T. cruzi infection, prevent tainting the blood supply with T. cruzi, and implement secondary prevention of congenital Chagas disease.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Chagas Disease / diagnosis
  • Chagas Disease / epidemiology*
  • Chagas Disease / transmission*
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Hemagglutination Tests
  • Humans
  • United States / epidemiology