Today Chagas disease is one of the world’s most important neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and a leading cause of poverty in Latin America. An estimated 10 million people are infected worldwide with more than 99% of the cases occurring in Latin America, especially in the poorest countries in the region. Based on DALYs (disability adjusted life years) the disease burden of Chagas disease is five times greater than malaria, and is approximately one-fifth that of HIV/AIDS in Latin America. Most of the disability and deaths from Chagas disease result from chronic Chagas cardiomyopathy, a condition that develops in approximately 30% of individuals infected with T. cruzi.
Today, the greatest number of new cases of Chagas disease occurs in Bolivia, but the disease has also re-emerged in southern Mexico and Colombia. Chagas disease disproportionately affects the poorest people living in these regions, especially because of the kissing bug vector’s propensity to live in poor-quality dwellings, as well as lack of access to essential medicines and vector control practices. In Mexico, between two and six million people are infected, with the highest overall prevalence in the poorest southern states. Chagas disease has also emerged in the United States and Europe (the “globalization of Chagas”).