Daily Archives: March 27, 2014

A deeper look at Chagas disease

When we read about vector-borne disease, Chagas disease was mentioned. I’m not super informed about Chagas, but I do know some people studying the disease and knowledge of the disease among health providers. 
There are essentially two things that I want to convey through this post: (1) Chagas disease is a parasitic infection involving Trypanosoma cruzi and is endemic to Latin American countries but is incredibly influenced by social, cultural and economic factors that allow for movement of disease-affected areas and (2) because of the different influences, healthcare providers must be more cognizant of such “neglected” diseases because human migration and overall international interaction can cause serious public health burdens.
This article outlines the different qualitative influences on Chagas and how they affect transmission. The study performed an overall review of what qualitative research is out there on Chagas (in-depth interviews, focus groups, ethnography, participant observation and more). This article discusses the the following overall themes among the studies: socio-structural determinants of Chagas disease; health practices; biomedical conceptions of Chagas disease; patient’s experience; and institutional strategies adopted. 
I thought this article was informative because scientists often look to quantitative data as a source of answers, but so much of health and medicine is cultural and necessitates analysis of qualitative data. 
This study specifically looks at international migration from Chagas-endemic countries and how that has allowed for spread of the disease into non-endemic areas. I think this line summarizes the overall conclusion: “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.” Here, it’s important to realize that there is movement of this disease across regions and countries. In other words, when we said that Chagas is a Latin American disease in class, we weren’t completely true. 
I don’t mean to say that we were entirely wrong, just that with our modern world, that kind of statement isn’t accurate anymore. This relates to something we’ve been talking about throughout the semester – how our understanding of disease influences medical education. There’s a lot of research out there about health providers’ knowledge on Chagas and other neglected parasitic infections, and from what I’ve read and understood, there’s a gap in that knowledge. It comes to the point where individuals with Chagas are misdiagnosed and sent home – to further spread the disease. Here’s an example article I found.