What is Chagas Disease?


Approximately 5.7 million infected [1]
7,000 deaths per year
Chronic Chagas disease results in significant disability with great social and economic impact including unemployment and decreased earning ability. In Brazil alone, losses of over US$ 1.3 billion in wages and industrial productivity were due to workers with Chagas disease.


Endemic in 21 countries across Latin America, Chagas disease kills more people in the region each year than any other parasite-born disease, including malaria. Patient numbers are growing in non-endemic, developed countries (eg. Australia, Canada, Japan, Spain, and the United States), due to increased migration of Latin American immigrants unknowingly carrying the parasite in their blood (see map).


Caused by the kinetoplastid protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, Chagas disease is primarily transmitted by large, blood-sucking reduviid insects widely known as “the kissing bugs” in endemic countries. Other ways of transmission are blood transfusion, organ transplantation, as well as congenital and oral transmissions.
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The disease has two clinical stages:

– Acute (in which 5% of children die) characterised by fever, malaise, facial oedema, generalised lymphadenopathy, and hepatosplenomegaly – often spontaneously resolves in four to six weeks– Chronic disease has two phases:

  • Chronic asymptomatic “indeterminate” disease, during which patients can transmit the parasite to others while showing no signs of the disease, can last 10 years to life
  • Chronic symptomatic disease develops in 10% to 30% of infected patients and most often involves the heart or gastrointestinal tract.

Chagas disease is a leading cause of infectious cardiomyopathy worldwide.

Patient treatment needs

Improved treatment options are needed for all stages of Chagas infection:

  • A paediatric strength which is affordable, age-adapted, safe, and efficacious would cure patients early on in the disease.
  • A new drug for chronic disease that is safe, efficacious, and adapted to the field, and ideally would work in both stages of the disease.

Fact sheet

DNDi Chagas Disease Fact Sheet




[1] WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record (WER) 6 February 2015, No. 6, 2015, 90 (pp. 33–44)
[2] Third WHO report on NTDs, WHO 2015