Within the framework of the international meeting of the “Uniting to combat NTDs initiative: Translating the London Declaration into Action”, organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank under WHO guidelines, the Argentine NGO Mundo Sano held a side event for experts on Chagas disease, a silent illness with severe effects in human health.

Specialists from all over the region got together at the session organized by Mundo Sano to analyze the ways of access to treatments for Chagas disease in non-endemic countries –such as the United States- and discuss public policies to be implemented so as to avoid propagation of the disease. This seminar was a side event of the International meeting of the Uniting to combat NTDs initiative, being held at the World Bank, in Washington D.C.

“Chagas disease is a serious public health problem, not just in Latin America, but also in the United States,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. “It is crucial that we expand our efforts to fight Chagas by improving training for health care providers, developing safer and more effective treatments while simultaneously developing new vaccines. Only with a combined effort can we eliminate this disease, which disproportionally affects people living in poverty throughout the Western Hemisphere.”

Chagas disease, which is endemic in Latin America, with over 8 million people affected, started to cross the countries’ borders in migrants’ hands. According to the last population census, more than 21 million Latin American immigrants live in the Unites States. In non-endemic countries, where there is no evidence of vector transmission, there are ways by means of which the disease can be caught, like blood transfussions, organ transplants or from a pregnant mother that suffers from the disease into her child to be born.

Chagas disease is considered to be a silent disease. It normally consists of an asymptomatic pathology which, if untreated, tends to manifest itself as a heart disease and eventually, lead to sudden death.

Dr. Mahamoud Traina—of Olive View, UCLA Medical Center—referred to the work done by Bern and Montgomery, published by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which estimates that there are more than 300 thousand people infected by Chagas disease in the United States.

During the opening session, the Argentine National Health Minister, Dr. Juan Manzur, stressed that “in order to intensify surveillance and control actions for Chagas disease, health policies are increasing its response capacity and fostered training and awareness-raising actions in the population regarding the importance of prevention and early detection of the disease". Furthermore, he introduced the successful public-privately partnership to produce in Argentina benznidazole, the main drug used to treat Chagas disease that was out of the market.  Manzur will also be part of the Endemic Country Perspectives Panel, on Saturday, November 17th.

In turn, Dr. Jenny Sanchez of the Latin American Society of Chagas (LASOCHA) addressed the patients’ needs and stated that there is an important lack of awareness on this issue in the United States, and warned of the language barriers that can hinder consultations with health professionals to detect the disease.

“Even though Chagas disease is a core issue in the agendas of Latin American countries, the occurrence of cases in non-endemic areas poses a challenge in matters of diagnosis and access to medicines. Besides, we are going through a change in paradigm since not only children are receiving treatment but chronic patients as well”, reflected Silvia Gold, Mundo Sano president at the closing ceremony.

Mundo Sano’s scientific seminar took place within the framework of the first meeting of the international program Uniting to combat NTDs to held in Washington, where the advances of the projects that seek to achieve control or eradication of several neglected diseases by the 2020 is being revised. This meeting will last until November 18th, at the World Bank Headquarters. United States and United Kingdom relief agencies are taking part as well as public officials and specialists from all over the world.

Mundo Sano is part of this global initiative with the Desafío project, through which it will go deeper into the reach of the activities related to Chagas disease in Añatuya (Santiago del Estero) and Pampa del Indio (Chaco), among other Argentine localities; and in Tartagal city (Salta) it will replicate, at a bigger scale, the pilot experience of community diagnosis and treatment for soil-transmitted helminths that has been carried out in Orán since 2010. For the second phase of the work, Mundo Sano will work jointly with other Latin American countries to replicate these models in the continent; and for the third stage, the interventions will be carried out in other regions of the world. "We are facing a complex scenario that demands global commitments, where each stakeholder will contribute with their experience and knowledge to improve access to health”, reflected Silvia Gold, Mundo Sano president at the meeting.

For further information, visit: http://unitingtocombatntds.org/


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Florencia Arbiser

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Luciana Acuña Elias

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