A century after its discovery, Chagas’ disease still represents a major public health challenge in Latin America. Moreover, because of growing population movements, an increasing number of cases of imported Chagas’ disease have now been detected in non-endemic areas, such as North America and some European countries. This parasitic zoonosis, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, is transmitted to humans by infected Triatominae insects, or occasionally by non-vectorial mechanisms, such as blood transfusion, mother to fetus, or oral ingestion of materials contaminated with parasites. Following the acute phase of the infection, untreated individuals enter a chronic phase that is initially asymptomatic or clinically unapparent. Usually, a few decades later, 40–50% of patients develop progressive cardiomyopathy and/or motility disturbances of the oesophagus and colon. In the last decades several interventions targeting primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of Chagas’ disease have been attempted. While control of both vectorial and blood transfusion transmission of T cruzi (primary prevention) has been successful in many regions of Latin America, early detection and aetiological treatment of asymptomatic subjects with Chagas’ disease (secondary prevention) have been largely underutilised. At the same time, in patients with established chronic disease, several pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions are currently available and have been increasingly used with the intention of preventing or delaying complications of the disease (tertiary prevention). In this review we discuss in detail each of these issues.
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Competing interests: None.
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