Via Doctors Without Borders: Chagas: Making Noise About the Silent Disease. As the story notes, April 14 is International Chagas Day. Excerpt:
The fight against Chagas—a tropical parasitic disease that affects between eight and ten million people in Latin America—has seen major advances in recent years.
This is good news for sufferers of the neglected disease, and also for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), as we have been working on improving access to existing medicines for Chagas and have been advocating for more research and development into its treatment.
The latest advance was announced last month, when Argentina became the second producer of benznidazole, the main drug used to treat Chagas, thanks to a joint effort between the Argentinian Ministry of Health and the NGO Fundación Mundo Sano. This was the latest in a series of breakthroughs in the battle against the disease.
Demand for treatment has increased significantly in recent years, as more adults are now being treated, in addition to children. New medical evidence has also shown the benefits of benznidazole for patients at the chronic stage of the disease. Meanwhile, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has issued two resolutions on Chagas disease, with a focus on screening and treatment.
Last year we received encouraging news when a new pediatric dosage of benznidazole was registered in Brazil, a development supported by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative. Before this, there was no specific formulation adapted for children, even though the recovery rate from Chagas treatment is higher in minors.
Other developments are underway: MSF and the World Health Organization are involved in a joint study to simplify diagnosis with rapid tests. If the results are positive, it will be possible to scale up screening among pregnant women and in remote communities affected by Chagas.
These are all significant steps. However, as we mark International Chagas Day on April 14, we need to remember that there is still a long road ahead in the struggle to put this silent and neglected disease on the agenda. More policies, more funding and more investigation are all needed if we are to prioritize the health of Chagas sufferers.