Per IVD market research firm Kalorama Information there is an opportunity for test makers and investors in Chagas disease diagnostics.  Chagas is a particularly underpublicized and harmful disease and current tests are inadequate to catch all cases.  Recently the Defense Department was concerned enough to embark on a study after concerns about a principally Latin American disease reaching U.S. Army bases in the Southwest.  In Kalorama information’s Emerging Infections Testing report ( Chagas is identified as one of the company’s Top Emerging Infectious Disease threats.  

 Chagas disease or American Trypanosomiasis represents the third largest tropical disease burden worldwide, after malaria and schistosomiasis.  The disease   is caused by the protozoan parasite T cruzi, which is transmitted to humans by blood-sucking insects of the family Reduviidae (Triatominae).
 In Central and South America, Chagas kills more people than any other parasite-borne disease, including malaria and has a higher incidence-death rate than HIV/AIDS. In spite of this there are still no reliable data on its incidence.  There is no vaccine against Chagas disease. Patients in the acute phase are generally treated with nifurtimox and benznidazole, which are highly toxic. There are no drugs to treat the chronic form of Chagas disease.

Doctors in the United States that treat people with Chagas disease, a parasitic illness transmitted by the “kissing bug” in the Americas, are increasingly worried about the estimated 30,000 to 45,000 people that are at increased risk of complications from COVID-19 because they have Chagas-related heart problems. As an indication of that concern, the U.S. Department of Defense has granted 700,000 to Texas State University to conduct a study assessing the threat of Chagas disease to military bases.

Diagnosis of Chagas disease can be made by observation of the parasite in a blood smear by microscopic examination. A thick and thin blood smear are made and stained for visualization of parasites. but better tests are sought. 

 Chembio, Bioconcept and Altona Diagnostics are among the companies that produce tests for Chagas.   Last year, a study found that a combination of marketed rapid point-of-care (POC) diagnostics was useful in screening for Chagas disease in a study conducted in Bolivia. The results compared well with the gold standard enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) approach, which is a challenge in low-resource settings, researchers reported on December 19 in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Kalorama says that molecular testing is the most effective technique, however it is not widely available for screening programs. There is some expectation that current advancements in miniaturization may lead to cost-effective molecular devices. In the meantime major health organizations have been motivated to take action.