05/10/2014

LETTER TO THE CHAGAS INITIATIVE FROM OUR COLLEAGUE IN PARAGUAY


His name is Elías Menacho Eguez and he works as a doctor in the public sector in Asuncion, Capitol of Paraguay. He is an integrant of our Chagas Initiative. Elías did his Residency program in the Hospital de Clinicas General San Martin in Buenos Aires, and returned to his country, where he daily struggles to help patients affected of Chagas Disease.


CHAGAS DISEASE: HISTORY AND PRESENT

As mentioned by the World Health Organization ( WHO ): ?Chagas disease represents a serious public health problem considering their size, significance, impact and vulnerability".

Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano das Chagas (1879-1934) Brazilian sanitarian doctor discovered the disease (1909) which was named after him. Today, one hundred years later, Chagas disease remains a ?hidden, ignored disease?, included as one of 17 neglected tropical diseases by the World Health Organization (WHO), because since the sixties no new drugs were developed to treat the condition, which is paradoxically the most endemic in Latin America, from Mexico to Patagonia, where the wild and domestic cycles are mixed. This disease, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to the body through the bite of the "kissing bug", a bug present in homes, farms, stables and other local farm in impoverished areas.

Probably in cause of being a disease that has high correlation to the low socio - economical status of large segments of Latin America is why it is not considered as an important matter of research, by the large companies producing medicines. By the same token the local governments do not make the necessary and sustained efforts to eradicate it.

It is therefore no wonder that more than 1 century since its discovery, we have not yet found any vaccine or a more effective treatment. I must admit that this does not only depend on medicine, which after all is just a science; it also depends on the interest of governments and companies that investigate for new medical products.

Because of all these problems related to the eradication of the disease it is important not to call it a ?disease of poverty?, but rather consider it as a social disease.

In the absence of technical resources, or new drugs, it only remains to carry out prevention, and at the same time governments need to take action by building safe housing, pest control, sanitation, as well as implementation of social programs that help this population sector solving their complex economic and sociological problems.


My country, Paraguay, is no stranger to this problem, according to the Paraguayan National Chagas Program, an estimated 165,000 people are infected with Chagas, however not everyone knows that they are infected; which implies that it is a prevalent disease and is an important health problem in our country:

http://www.ip.gov.py/index.php/noticias-destacadas/item/5435-en-paraguay-unas-165-000-personas-padecen-de-chagas


I consider commendable the start of production of benznidazole in Argentina, which was announced by The Mundo Sano Foundation and the Argentinian Ministry of Health during an event in Buenos Aires. This will allow those infected to access treatment, something that until recently was not possible, because the pharmaceutical companies had stopped the production.

This disease affects us all, the public sector, the private sector and community at large, hence the need for common efforts to eradicate the disease completely and healing those infected (or at least mitigate the effects).
I hope this initiative will be extened, not only to my country, but also throughout Latin America, because no one is safe from this evil.

With best regards to all colleagues and donors of The Chagas Iniciative:


Dr. Elias Armando Menacho Egúez
Asunción, Paraguay

Reg. Prof. MSP 6056