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States » East


Preventing mother-to-child transmission of Chagas disease: from control to elimination

Preventing mother-to-child transmission of Chagas disease: from control to elimination

Kolkata, Nov 17 (UNI) The World Health Organization (WHO) is shifting its focus towards active screening of girls and women of childbearing age to detect the presence of Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative parasite of Chagas disease.

Recent evidence demonstrates that diagnosing and treating women of this age group before pregnancy can effectively prevent congenital transmission.

“Identifying pregnant women already infected with the parasite, as well as newborns and siblings, has been a major challenge in both endemic and non-endemic countries” said Dr Pedro Albajar Vinas, Medical Officer, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

“With the progressive control of transmission by vectors and through blood transfusion, updating, reinforcing and expanding standardized screening measures for congenital transmission make absolute sense,” Dr Pedro said.

Up to now, control and prevention strategies for Chagas disease largely relied on the early detection and treatment of infected newborns and siblings of pregnant women.

But a recent shift in approaches to prevent transmission globally – including in non-endemic countries – is through active, systematic screening of girls and women at risk of infection and provides excellent opportunities for prevention of posterior transmission throughout pregnancy and birth.

“There are several instruments through which detection can be done and these can be complemented in combination with biomedical and psychosocial strategies,” said Dr Manuel Segovia , Director of the Regional Unit of Tropical Medicine, Hospital Clínico Universitario Virgen de la Arrixaca, Murcia, Spain.

“Once infection is confirmed in a patient, physical and complementary examinations are needed to determine the clinical presentation of the disease,” Dr Segovia added.

Generally, it is estimated that under-diagnosis of Chagas disease cases is as high as 90 per cent, with under-diagnosis of congenital transmission believed to be even higher.

This constitutes the most frequent means of transmission, especially in areas where infection through insect vectors is not transmitted and where transmission through blood transfusion has been interrupted.

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