Chagas disease is a chronic, systemic, parasitic infection caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, and was discovered in 1909. The disease affects about 8 million people in Latin America, of whom 30-40% either have or will develop cardiomyopathy, digestive megasyndromes, or both. In the past three decades, the control and management of Chagas disease has undergone several improvements. Large-scale vector control programmes and screening of blood donors have reduced disease incidence and prevalence. Although more effective trypanocidal drugs are needed, treatment with benznidazole (or nifurtimox) is reasonably safe and effective, and is now recommended for a widened range of patients. Improved models for risk stratification are available, and certain guided treatments could halt or reverse disease progression. By contrast, some challenges remain: Chagas disease is becoming an emerging health problem in non-endemic areas because of growing population movements; early detection and treatment of asymptomatic individuals are underused; and the potential benefits of novel therapies (eg, implantable cardioverter defibrillators) need assessment in prospective randomised trials.
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