What is Chagas disease?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If the kissing bug infects you with the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, and it is not treated, you can develop chronic Chagas disease in which your heart muscle, esophagus, and colon can become inflamed and dilated, leading to heart failure and stroke. Though this is a rare occurrence in the United States, the incidence of Chagas disease is increasing. Infected bugs are found in the Southern U.S.
This content originally appeared on
Chagas disease is an infection that is a major health issue in South and Central America. It is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi that is spread to humans and other mammals by insects. A patient with chronic Chagas disease may develop heart failure, arrythmia and gastrointestinal difficulties. In acute Chagas disease, there may be fever or swelling and inflammation at the insect bite site. The insect that can carry the parasite is called a triatomine bug, or "blood sucking." It is sometimes called "kissing bug," because it seems to bite humans on the face. The bug is native to the Americas, especially South America. The parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, is related to the African trypanosome, an organism that is known to cause sleeping sickness. Blood banks in South America now screen blood donors. In the United States, many blood banks now also screen for Chagas disease. If the blood donor tests positive for Chagas disease, the blood is discarded.

Continue Learning about Parasitic Infections

What You Need to Know About Ticks
What You Need to Know About Ticks
The thought of a tick on your body or in your home probably makes you shudder, but if you spend time outdoors, you need to know what to do should you ...
Read More
What is the rate of incidence for parasitic infections?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
There are millions of parasitic infections each year with the rate of incidence and type of infectio...
More Answers
What is a tapeworm?
Tapeworms are parasites, usually found in under-cooked beef or pork, sometimes in freshwater fish. I...
More Answers
What Are the Symptoms of Parasitic Infections?
What Are the Symptoms of Parasitic Infections?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.