Chagas Disease Costs $7B Annually Worldwide, According To Study

Chagas disease, transmitted by a bloodsucking insect that bites the face and lips, “costs the world about $7 billion annually, says [an] analysis just published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “That’s more than the global cost of cervical cancer or cholera,” the blog notes, adding, “Most Chagas cases occur in Latin America, but the disease is spreading northward.” However, the data presented in the study are “rough approximates based on computer models for how much it costs to treat Chagas and losses incurred when sick people can’t work or die prematurely — two things that are really tough to nail down,” according to the blog. Bruce Lee of the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study said, “The main thing is to view the order of magnitude. … The numbers are based on some assumptions, but we tried to be conservative and underestimate the costs” (Doucleff, 2/10).

In an accompanying commentary in the Lancet, Gabriel Schmunis, a consultant to the WHO Regional Office of the Americas, writes, “The report by Lee and colleagues draws attention to the high economic burden of the disorder, from the level of individuals to the global level, including endemic countries and those such as the USA, where vector transmission to humans is very rare. The article is a call for action; for sustained support for prevention and control as well as treatment of the thousands of individuals who are infected. I hope that the relevant governments from Latin America and elsewhere hear the call” (2/8).

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