Background: Benznidazole is effective for treating acute and chronic (recently acquired) Trypanosoma cruzi infection (Chagas' disease). Recent data indicate that parasite persistence plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of chronic Chagas' cardiomyopathy. However, the efficacy of trypanocidal therapy in preventing clinical complications in patients with preexisting cardiac disease is unknown.
Study design: BENEFIT is a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 3,000 patients with Chagas' cardiomyopathy in Latin America. Patients are randomized to receive benznidazole (5 mg/kg per day) or matched placebo, for 60 days. The primary outcome is the composite of death; resuscitated cardiac arrest; sustained ventricular tachycardia; insertion of pacemaker or cardiac defibrillator; cardiac transplantation; and development of new heart failure, stroke, or systemic or pulmonary thromboembolic events. The average follow-up time will be 5 years, and the trial has a 90% power to detect a 25% relative risk reduction. The BENEFIT program also comprises a substudy evaluating the effects of benznidazole on parasite clearance and an echo substudy exploring the impact of etiologic treatment on left ventricular function. Recruitment started in November 2004, and >1,000 patients have been enrolled in 35 centers from Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia to date.
Conclusion: This is the largest trial yet conducted in Chagas' disease. BENEFIT will clarify the role of trypanocidal therapy in preventing cardiac disease progression and death.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00123916.