Chagas is a potentially life-threatening illness that is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. The disease is predominately found in Latin America and mostly spreads by insects called triatomine bugs. However, there are other routes of transmission such as food-borne, congenital, and blood transfusions, which have enabled the disease to spread to other continents. The disease is curable if treatment is initiated soon after infection, however, chronic disease can cause long-term cardiac, digestive, or neurological complications. Universal screening of blood banks for Chagas is carried out in most Western and European countries and the screening of women of child-bearing age is essential in Latin America. Detection during the acute phase is by microscopy or PCR, however, as Chagas does not typically present any symptoms until the later stages of the disease, the most common tests are serological assays which detect the presence of IgM or IgG antibodies to the parasite.
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