Chagas Disease Life Cycle

Chagas disease life cycle, explained.

Popularly known as the kissing bug disease, Chagas disease is strongly associated with the Triatominae family of insects. On this topic we'll learn what the Chagas disease life cycle is.

Triatominae insects do not actually cause the infamous disease. They merely serve as hosts for the parasites that actually cause the disease. Known as Trypanosoma Cruzi, this protozoan can cause suffering for human hosts decades after it enters the body.

The lengthy life cycle of the Chagas disease parasite makes this disease one of the most severe medical emergencies one can face.

Why is there a Chagas disease life cycle?

Chagas disease originated in Central and South America. The tropical environment provides the perfect conditions for a number of human parasites. These parasites are very different from each other, but they tend to share a similar method of infecting humans. They start out by infecting an animal or another insect and that animal serves as a vector for the disease. The Chagas protozoan usually picks the Triatominae insects to serve as a way to infect humans.

Triatominae serve as the perfect vector for Chagas disease because they have an affinity for our lips. In the South American countries they reside in, the bug will find its way into the beds of sleeping victims before reaching their face. Once the bug reaches your face, it will drink some of your blood and defecate into the resulting wound.

Initially, the Chagas infection is limited to this wound, but it will certainly find a way to spread throughout the body. As it spreads throughout the body, Chagas protozoa may produce an asymptomatic disease or they may even threaten your life.

How the Chagas protozoan spreads out

Once the Chagas protozoa is in the body, they will start looking for ways to infect the rest of your body. Depending on the parts of the body they choose to infect, you can experience everything from indigestion to heart failure.

Protozoans are particularly effective at spreading through the human body because they don't have many of the limits that prevent other categories of parasites. Unlike bacteria, protozoa boast a unicellular design allowing for very rapid growth under even the most adverse conditions.

The length of Chagas disease infections

Understanding the Chagas disease life cycle: Chagas disease tends to come in two forms. The most common is an acute infection characterized by severe symptoms but rapid recovery. The Chagas parasite spreads to only a few locations but lacks the ability to properly embed itself. In these cases most patients will recover within a matter of months without any lingering issues.

The more severe form of Chagas disease happens when the protozoa slowly but efficiently spread throughout the body. After taking control of important organs in the body, they slowly build up colonies until they are able to produce more severe and lethal attacks on the body.

Long term effects of Chagas disease

Once Chagas disease reaches a certain point, the infected individual has little hope of any treatment option stopping things. The infestation of the heart often demands surgery to manage the disease and keep patients alive. Typically, a patient who has had Chagas disease for years will need a pacemaker placed within the heart in order to survive.

Unfortunately, most people who have Chagas disease simply are not in a position where they are able to access this sort of advanced medicine. This means long term Chagas disease is often fatal.

Eradication of Chagas disease

Efforts to fight this disease have often focused on trying to find a way to combat the disease. Obviously, killing the parasite is normally the most effective way to handle the disease. To achieve this many doctors will prescribe nitrogen derivatives to discourage the reproduction of Trypanosoma Cruzi.

These medications are generally not able to completely rid the body of the parasite and often have little effect on chronic conditions. Regardless of the course of treatment doctors attempt, Chagas disease is easily spread from one human to another. Pregnant women often infect their children and sexual partners will often infect each other.

Chagas disease has now spread from its initial territory in the American tropics into North America, where it infects at least 300,000 people. These numbers are expected to increase as more movement occurs between countries. Patients with Chagas disease are frequently infected.

Last Reviewed:
September 03, 2017
Last Updated:
October 25, 2017
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