The GeneXpert diagnostic testing technology from the US corporation Cepheid, and its parent company Danaher, has revolutionised rapid, accurate diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) and other diseases, since entering the market in 2010. Yet, due to the high cost of the GeneXpert test cartridges, many countries are not able to scale up testing for all people who need lifesaving diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
MSF has been working in the province of Narciso Campero in Bolivia to prevent, diagnose, and treat Chagas disease.
Despite the fact that the medicines used to treat it are over 40 years old and have strong side effects, MSF has been successfully providing treatment for Chagas patients with good results. Since the beginning of the project, MSF has screened 10,414 people; 4.466 tested positive for Chagas and 1,804 patients completed treatment.
Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to humans by blood-sucking bugs. The majority of those infected show no signs or symptoms at the time of infection, and the symptoms can go unnoticed for many years. Ultimately, debilitating chronic symptoms develop in approximately one-third of people infected, with heart failure being the most common complication and cause of death for adults. Chagas disease is endemic in 21 countries in Latin America, with up to 8-10 million cases globally, resulting in an estimated 12,500 annual deaths.
Chagas continues to be a silent and neglected disease, and it is necessary to raise awareness and inform the population to help prevent it.