Chagas disease

Chagas disease, also referred as trypanosomiasis, is a tropical parasitic infection with a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations, since it can virtually affect any organ, but there are characteristic radiological features.

Chagas disease is endemic to Central and South America. An estimated 24 million people are infected with 60,000 deaths each year attributed to this infection 8

Chagas disease is caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. It is commonly transmitted to humans by an insect vector.

These are common in endemic regions. The pathogenesis is unclear since the parasite is not often found in heart tissue on autopsy, and an immunologic myocarditis has been suggested as the origin.

Symptoms begin with an acute myocarditis, after which patients enter a latent phase. Approximately 20% of these patients experience gradual fibrous replacement of myofibrils and Purkinje fibers. Eventually, dilated cardiomyopathy ensues, with arrhythmias and heart block. Segmental wall motion abnormalities and apical aneurysm may occur. Heart transplantation has been performed for end stage disease 6.

10-15% of patients are affected with chronic infection, and manifestations include:

Chagas disease is also known to cause dilatation of the ureter.

Radiographic features of Chagas disease can be seen on barium studies, plain films, CT and MRI.

On cardiac MR, delayed enhancement has been reported in the left ventricular wall in both CAD and non-CAD distributions. The delayed enhancement is progressive over time, and increasing delayed enhancement corresponds with decreasing cardiac performance 7.

Named after Carlos Justiniano Ribeiro Chagas (1879-1934), a Brazilian physician who completely described this infectious disease: the pathogen, the vector, the host, the clinical manifestations and its epidemiology.

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Article information

rID: 19896
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Trypanosomiasis

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Cases and figures

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    Figure 1: chagoma (Romana sign)
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    Case 1: chronic heart disease
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