Background: Chagas disease, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi infection, is an urban problem in Arequipa, Peru, and the epidemiology of Chagas disease is likely to be quite different in this area, compared with in rural zones.
Methods: We conducted a serosurvey of 1615 children <18 years old in periurban districts that included hillside shantytowns and slightly more affluent low-lying communities. In addition, 639 adult residents of 1 shantytown were surveyed to provide data across the age spectrum for this community.
Results: Of 1615 children, 75 (4.7%) were infected with Trypanosoma cruzi. Infection risk increased by 12% per year of age, and children living in hillside shantytowns were 2.5 times as likely to be infected as were those living in lower-lying communities. However, age-prevalence data from 1 shantytown demonstrated that adults were no more likely to be seropositive than were teenagers; the results of maximum likelihood modeling suggest that T. cruzi transmission began in this community <20 years ago.
Conclusions: The problem of Chagas disease in periurban settings, such as those around Arequipa, must be addressed to achieve elimination of vector-borne T. cruzi transmission. Identification of infected children, vector-control efforts, and education to avoid modifiable risk factors are necessary to decrease the burden of Chagas disease.