Outbreaks of orally transmitted Trypanosoma cruzi continue to be reported in Brazil and are associated with a high mortality rate, mainly due to myocarditis.
This study is a detailed report on the disease progression of acute Chagas disease in 13 patients who were infected during two micro-outbreaks in two northeastern Brazilian towns. Clinical outcomes as well as EKG and ECHO results are described, both before and after benznidazole treatment.
Fever and dyspnea were the most frequent symptoms observed. Other clinical findings included myalgia, periorbital edema, headache and systolic murmur. Two patients died of cardiac failure before receiving benznidazole treatment. EKG and ECHO findings frequently showed a disturbance in ventricular repolarization and pericardial effusion. Ventricular dysfunction (ejection fraction <55%) was present in 27.3% of patients. After treatment, EKG readings normalized in 91.7% of patients. Ventricular repolarization abnormalities persisted in 50% of the patients, while sinus bradycardia was observed in 18%. The systolic ejection fraction normalized in two out of three patients with initially depressed ventricular function, while pericardial effusion disappeared.
Myocarditis is frequently found and potentially severe in patients with acute Chagas disease. Benznidazole treatment may improve clinical symptoms, as well as EKG and ECHO findings.
Chagas disease is caused by a parasitic protozoan transmitted to humans by the contaminated feces of blood-feeding assassin bugs from the Triatominae subfamily. It may also be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy, by breastfeeding, blood transfusion or organ transplant. In rare cases, the disease can also be caused by accidental ingestion of contaminated food (sugar cane or açaí juice, drinking water, etc.). Acute Chagas disease often presents itself as a mononucleosis-like syndrome, with symptoms including fever, lymph node enlargement and muscle pain. The mortality rate of acute Chagas disease is high, mainly due to heart failure as a consequence of cardiac fiber lesions. There are few studies describing clinical outcomes and the disease progression of patients who receive therapeutic treatment, especially with regard to cardiac exam findings. In this report, the authors describe clinical findings from two micro-outbreaks occurring in impoverished towns in northeastern Brazil. Prior to receiving treatment, patient mortality rate was 28.6% in one of the outbreaks, and one pregnant woman experienced a spontaneous abortion due to the disease in the other outbreak. Most patients complained of fever, dyspnea, myalgia and periorbital edema. After receiving a two-month course of treatment, clinical symptoms improved and the number of abnormalities in cardiac exams decreased.