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Dr Louisa Messenger

Dr Louisa Messenger

‘Towards improved Chagas disease control and surveillance in the Bolivian Chaco’

Dr Louisa Messenger, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Chagas disease, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and transmitted by triatomine bugs living in the walls of rural adobe houses, is the most important infectious cause of chronic heart disease in the world. In the Bolivian Chaco, vector control has still not been achieved and disease prevalence is extraordinarily high. More than 90% of adults over 30 years are infected, of whom 30% eventually develop debilitating, irreversible and ultimately fatal heart disease. There is no curative adult treatment available, only drugs and surgical interventions to alleviate advanced heart disease, which are often not available or prohibitively expensive for local indigenous populations. Why some infected individuals develop heart disease while others do not is poorly understood, but host and parasite genetics, and repeated exposure to the vector and the parasite are believed to be involved. This study will utilize a multidisciplinary approach to screen a high risk population, refer children for treatment and develop several new laboratory tests to aid in identification of persons at high risk of Chagas heart disease and in the evaluation of future vector control activities.

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