The leading world experts in Chagas disease met today in Barcelona to discuss the latest advances in the care and treatment of patients with the most deadly parasitic disease in Latin America, which has also become a public health problem in Spain. The XIII Workshop on Chagas Disease, organised by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, a foundation supported by the “la Caixa” Foundation, in collaboration with the Mundo Sano Foundation, brought together some 150 experts in Chagas disease at the University of Barcelona Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
In his opening remarks, Joaquim Gascon, director of ISGlobal’s Chagas Initiative and Head of the International Health Department at Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic, stressed the importance of the juncture at which we find ourselves. “Chagas disease has become a global threat, and we need a response appropriate to the scale of the problem if it is to stop being a neglected disease. It is important to have a holistic view and to situate the patient at the heart of the undertaking, on the same level as research and medical care.”
With respect to the papers presented at the Workshop, he made particular mention of advances in the development of serological biomarkers of therapeutic efficacy, research into new treatments and diagnostic tests, as well as the results of studies with a new drug containing fexinidazole, which is highly effective but still requires additional investigation to improve its safety.
In her presentation, Mariana Sanmartino from Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) also stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to treatment and warned that progress in this field “begins with improving communication and collaboration between medical personnel and people with the disease.” She went on to explain that “patients are sometimes lost to follow up only because no one has taken the time to talk to them and explain the implications of a positive diagnosis”.
In the fight against Chagas disease, patient associations do important work by providing support for their members and through their social activism. José Rivero, President of the International Federation of People Affected by Chagas Disease (FINDECHAGAS) gave the closing talk as a representative of the patients, together with Antoni Plasència, the Director of ISGlobal.