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Chagas disease among pregnant Latin American women in the United Kingdom: time for action
  1. Cristina Fernandez Turienzo1,
  2. Carmen Cabeza Brasa2,
  3. William Newsholme3,
  4. Jane Sandall1,
  5. Peter L Chiodini2,4,
  6. David A J Moore2,4
  1. 1Department of Women and Children’s Health, King’s College, London, UK
  2. 2Hospital for Tropical Diseases, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Infection, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  4. 4Department of Clinical Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Cristina Fernandez Turienzo, Department of Women and Children’s Health, King’s College London SE1 7EH, UK; cristina.fernandez_turienzo{at}

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Summary box

  • Chagas disease—caused by infection with parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi)—is an emerging but still largely unrecognised parasitic disease in the United Kingdom (UK).

  • The classic vector-borne route of transmission by infected triatomine bugs only occurs in the endemic areas of Latin America, but less common routes of transmission—organ transplantations, blood transfusions and vertical transmission—have been reported in Europe.

  • The UK has implemented health policy measures to control the transmission, including the systematic screening of at-risk blood and organ donations.

  • Determining the prevalence of T. cruzi infection in Latin American women living in London remains a key priority to inform evidence-based screening policy and practice.


Chagas disease, sometimes referred to as American trypanosomiasis, is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) which affects ∼7 million people worldwide. The disease is endemic in Mexico, Central and South America—especially poor rural areas—where it kills more people than any other parasitic infection.1 As a result of migration to Europe from Latin America, Chagas disease has been seen with increasing frequency in European countries.2 Thus, diagnosis and management of disease and prevention of transmission are an emerging challenge for the National Health Service (NHS) and for the United Kingdom (UK) public health.

To date, Chagas disease has only rarely been reported in the UK but consideration of migration data and the known prevalence of the disease in endemic countries suggests that it is likely that this reflects considerable under-ascertainment.3 If the estimated prevalence of 1.3% among 95 500 Latin American (LA) residents in London is correct then at least 95% …

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