Silvia Gold, President, Mundo Sano Foundation
American Trypanosomiasis, more commonly known as Chagas disease, no longer reflects the geographical scope of the disease. Today, Chagas disease affects people around the world. It is hard to imagine that a disease, discovered over a century ago, which today can be easily diagnosed and for which effective treatment exists, continues to be a problem of severe health impact.
Much has been accomplished in recent years, and progress has been achieved in reducing the appearance of new cases. Extensive regions have been able to rid themselves of vector-borne transmission, while others have made great improvements. Blood banks provide a better warrantee for the supply of tested blood, reducing transmission through blood transfusions. The same can be said about organ transplants.
Nevertheless, there is a major deficit. It is estimated that there are more than 8 million affected and less than 1% treated. There are also a continuous number of newborns who are not being diagnosed with the infection and, consequently, are not getting the medical attention they need.
Currently, the availability of benznidazole, the firstline treatment for Chagas disease, is assured. The effectiveness of the treatment in children is around 90% and there is growing evidence of the benefits the drug for chronic patients. Countries like Argentina, that have updated their protocols to address the disease, suggest treatment to all infected patients.
One of the great challenges is the lack of general practitioners’ awareness on how to fully assist people with Chagas disease. In order to obtain better results, it is important that the disease be given priority in health policies, that the diagnostic methods and drugs are available, and that health systems, especially from the first referral level, are in a position to accept patients.
This great liability is what drove key organizations to create the Global Chagas Disease Coalition to join forces, together with the work carried out by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization on cooperation and awareness-raising, with the help of national programs in order to improve the situation. Faced with this complex reality, we believe it is necessary to work collectively.
In early March, in Barcelona, Spain, key experts from endemic country governments, pharmaceutical companies and product developers, researchers, and most importantly patient associations came together. But, in order to achieve greater progress, we need more people to join in.
We invite everyone who wants to take part, with their knowledge and commitment, to connect efforts. We cannot afford to lose time: 99 % of the people who are affected still have no access to treatment and cannot wait any longer. It is time to take action.
Dr Silvia Gold
President, Mundo Sano Foundation
The following organizations form the Chagas Coalition: Mundo Sano Foundation, Global Health Institute (ISGlobal), Sabin Vaccine Institute, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), the Colectivo de Estudios Aplicados y Desarrollo Social (CEADES) with the support of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the International Federation of People Affected by Chagas Disease (FINDECHAGAS) and theHealth Institute of the Carlos Slim Foundation.