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Chagas disease: changes in knowledge and management.

More than 100 years after the discovery of human American trypanosomiasis by Carlos Chagas, our knowledge and management of the disease are profoundly changing. Substantial progress made by disease control programmes in most endemic areas contrasts with persisting difficulties in the Gran Chaco region in South America and the recent emergence of the disease in non-endemic areas because of population movements. In terms of pathogenesis, major discoveries have been made about the life cycle and genomics of Trypanosoma cruzi, and the role of the parasite itself in the chronic phase of the disease. From a clinical perspective, a growing number of arguments have challenged the notion of an indeterminate phase, and suggest new approaches to manage patients. New methods such as standardised PCR will be necessary to ensure follow-up of this chronic infection. Although drugs for treatment of Chagas disease are limited, poorly tolerated, and not very effective, treatment indications are expanding. The results of the Benznidazole Evaluation For Interrupting Trypanosomiasis (BENEFIT) trial in 2012 will also help to inform treatment. Mobilisation of financial resources to fund research on diagnosis and randomised controlled trials of treatment are international health priorities.

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