Alliances for Chagas elimination in Central America
Global economic losses caused by Chagas disease are estimated at USD$7 billion (just under CA$9 billion) per year. In Central America, five million poor people living in houses made of mud, adobe, or thatch materials are at risk of contracting Chagas disease. The most important Chagas transmission vector in the region is Triatoma dimidiata, a native insect with the capacity to re-infest houses a few months after chemical spraying. Despite longstanding insecticide-based control measures to eliminate household infestation, Chagas transmission persists in many rural areas of the region. Following the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Committee for Chagas Control in Central America and Mexico, novel control interventions, including house improvements, will soon start in priority disease hotspots. Past research has shown that long-lasting, low-cost, and culturally adapted house improvements are successful in making houses resistant to vector re-infestation and preventing infection.
This project, implemented in partnership with the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, will demonstrate the feasibility of eliminating Chagas as a public health threat in a highly endemic area, and set the basis for its replication in other hotspots of Central America and Mexico. It will take place in the most important hotspot of Chagas transmission located along the Guatemala-El Salvador border, targeting 48 rural communities of the Jutiapa Department in Guatemala. In addition to reducing disease transmission, the project will significantly improve the living conditions of 32,400 vulnerable people.
An integrated disease control plan will combine community actions to reduce transmission risk factors (such as housing improvements) with access to timely diagnoses and treatment of infected individuals. Among the activities are training for health professionals in the development, evaluation, and integration of this approach into national public health policies, and reinforcement of surveillance systems.
IDRC, in partnership with the Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative and in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization, aim to expand donor support and local action to halt the transmission of this entirely preventable, costly, and debilitating disease.