Global health topics are typically presented in the context of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia. However, today approximately 100 million people in the Western Hemisphere also live on less than $2 per day. About 10 percent of these “bottom 100 million” currently live with a serious and life-threatening neglected disease known as Chagas disease or American trypanosomiasis.
Humans acquire Chagas disease microscopic parasites — trypanosomes — through contact with kissing bugs that thrive in poor quality and substandard housing. Trypanosomes selectively attack the heart so that up to one-third of people who acquire them progress and develop a form of heart disease known as a cardiomyopathy associated with heart aneurysms, arrhythmias, and even sudden death.