On the occasion of World Chagas Day—celebrated on 14 April—the Global Chagas Disease Coalition has published a report entitled “Breaking the Silence. An Opportunity for Patients with Chagas Disease”. This document provides a comprehensive analysis of the current situation regarding the disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and proposes a series of measures designed to remedy one of the major hurdles facing infected patients: the lack of access to diagnosis and treatment.
It is estimated that 6 or 7 million people are infected by T. cruzi and that less than 1% of them receive treatment. In this report the Global Chagas Disease Coalition highlights the fact that, at the current rate, it would take 300 years to treat all those affected. Moreover, according to the data compiled by the authors, the annual economic burden imposed by Chagas disease is estimated to be in the region of $US7.2 billion, if we take into account both the cost borne by national health services and disease-related loss of productivity. Paradoxically, the amount invested in R&D relating to this neglected disease in the last decade has been only $162 million.
The report presented this week establishes clear targets for the fight against Chagas disease: to increase the number of those diagnosed and treated—currently less than 1% of infected patients—to 100% in the case of newborn infants and children under 18 years; and to achieve a tenfold increase in the number of adults treated by 2020.
To ensure that these targets are met, the Global Coalition has proposed a series of measures and commitments, which they are asking governments and other public and private actors to undertake.
The following are the most important of these:
- Political commitment on the part of all affected countries to a global strategy to fight Chagas disease, with a particular focus on Latin America.
- Implementation of programmes designed to accelerate access to diagnosis and treatment: increasing resources; ensuring the availability of diagnostic supplies and drugs; training health care personnel; informative, educational and communication activities; and the inclusion of adults with chronic disease in comprehensive care programmes.
- Implementation of measures to control disease transmission: universal screening of at-risk women of childbearing age; continuing vector control efforts; and systematic screening for the parasite in blood banks and organ transplant programmes.
- That all those who work with Chagas disease should adhere to the roadmap for increasing access to diagnosis and treatment.
“As the title of the Coalition's report indicates, we have the opportunity today to definitively break the silence that weighs on Chagas disease” commented Joaquim Gascon, member of the Global Chagas Disease Coalition and Director of the Chagas Initiative at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). He continued, “We have the diagnostic methods and the treatments, and now is the time to put them at the disposition of the millions of people who need them.”